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The molecular mechanisms and pharmacotherapy of ATP-sensitive potassium channel gene mutations underlying neonatal diabetes

Authors Veronica Lang, Peter E Light

Published Date November 2010 Volume 2010:3 Pages 145—161

DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/PGPM.S6969

Published 24 November 2010

Veronica Lang, Peter E Light
Department of Pharmacology and Alberta Diabetes Institute, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, School of Molecular and Systems Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Abstract: Neonatal diabetes mellitus (NDM) is a monogenic disorder caused by mutations in genes involved in regulation of insulin secretion from pancreatic β-cells. Mutations in the KCNJ11 and ABCC8 genes, encoding the adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-sensitive potassium (KATP) channel Kir6.2 and SUR1 subunits, respectively, are found in ~50% of NDM patients. In the pancreatic β-cell, KATP channel activity couples glucose metabolism to insulin secretion via cellular excitability and mutations in either KCNJ11 or ABCC8 genes alter KATP channel activity, leading to faulty insulin secretion. Inactivation mutations decrease KATP channel activity and stimulate excessive insulin secretion, leading to hyperinsulinism of infancy. In direct contrast, activation mutations increase KATP channel activity, resulting in impaired insulin secretion, NDM, and in severe cases, developmental delay and epilepsy. Many NDM patients with KCNJ11 and ABCC8 mutations can be successfully treated with sulfonylureas (SUs) that inhibit the KATP channel, thus replacing the need for daily insulin injections. There is also strong evidence indicating that SU therapy ameliorates some of the neurological defects observed in patients with more severe forms of NDM. This review focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of mutations in the KATP channel that underlie NDM. SU pharmacogenomics is also discussed with respect to evaluating whether patients with certain KATP channel activation mutations can be successfully switched to SU therapy.

Keywords: neonatal diabetes, KCNJ11, ABCC8, ATP-sensitive potassium channels

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