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Physiol Rev. 2018 Jan 1;98(1):117-214. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00008.2017.

Pancreatic β-Cell Electrical Activity and Insulin Secretion: Of Mice and Men.

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Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, University of Oxford, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, United Kingdom; Department of Neuroscience and Physiology, Metabolic Research Unit, Göteborg, Sweden; and Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.


The pancreatic β-cell plays a key role in glucose homeostasis by secreting insulin, the only hormone capable of lowering the blood glucose concentration. Impaired insulin secretion results in the chronic hyperglycemia that characterizes type 2 diabetes (T2DM), which currently afflicts >450 million people worldwide. The healthy β-cell acts as a glucose sensor matching its output to the circulating glucose concentration. It does so via metabolically induced changes in electrical activity, which culminate in an increase in the cytoplasmic Ca2+ concentration and initiation of Ca2+-dependent exocytosis of insulin-containing secretory granules. Here, we review recent advances in our understanding of the β-cell transcriptome, electrical activity, and insulin exocytosis. We highlight salient differences between mouse and human β-cells, provide models of how the different ion channels contribute to their electrical activity and insulin secretion, and conclude by discussing how these processes become perturbed in T2DM.

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