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PLoS Comput Biol. 2017 Jul 27;13(7):e1005686. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005686. eCollection 2017 Jul.

Upregulation of an inward rectifying K+ channel can rescue slow Ca2+ oscillations in K(ATP) channel deficient pancreatic islets.

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Department of Mathematics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, United States of America.
Brehm Diabetes Center, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI, United States of America.
Department of Mathematics and Programs in Molecular Biophysics and Neuroscience, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, United States of America.


Plasma insulin oscillations are known to have physiological importance in the regulation of blood glucose. In insulin-secreting β-cells of pancreatic islets, K(ATP) channels play a key role in regulating glucose-dependent insulin secretion. In addition, they convey oscillations in cellular metabolism to the membrane by sensing adenine nucleotides, and are thus instrumental in mediating pulsatile insulin secretion. Blocking K(ATP) channels pharmacologically depolarizes the β-cell plasma membrane and terminates islet oscillations. Surprisingly, when K(ATP) channels are genetically knocked out, oscillations in islet activity persist, and relatively normal blood glucose levels are maintained. Compensation must therefore occur to overcome the loss of K(ATP) channels in K(ATP) knockout mice. In a companion study, we demonstrated a substantial increase in Kir2.1 protein occurs in β-cells lacking K(ATP) because of SUR1 deletion. In this report, we demonstrate that β-cells of SUR1 null islets have an upregulated inward rectifying K+ current that helps to compensate for the loss of K(ATP) channels. This current is likely due to the increased expression of Kir2.1 channels. We used mathematical modeling to determine whether an ionic current having the biophysical characteristics of Kir2.1 is capable of rescuing oscillations that are similar in period to those of wild-type islets. By experimentally testing a key model prediction we suggest that Kir2.1 current upregulation is a likely mechanism for rescuing the oscillations seen in islets from mice deficient in K(ATP) channels.

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