Blood sugar absorbed from food has to timely enter muscles as energy supply as well as the liver and fat tissue for energy storage. Otherwise, diabetes occurs. Such glucose transport is precisely controlled by insulin, the body’s only hormone capable of lowering blood sugar. This hormone is released from insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas.

The ion channel proteins that are regulated by ATP and that transport potassium ions (KATP channels) are situated on the surface of the insulin-secreting cells to sense blood sugar and control sugar-stimulated insulin secretion. However, it has been a long-standing mystery how the insulin-secreting cells keep an appropriate number of KATP channels on their surface. Scientists at the the Rolf Luft Research Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, Karolinska Institutet, have now disclosed a new traffic route whereby sugar promotes the insulin secretion controller KATP channel to march to its post.

Dogmatically, only two routes were believed to operate in insulin-secreting cells to deliver the macromolecules newly manufactured or modified inside cells to the cell surface where they
release or reside to function. One is referred to as a regulated insulin secretory pathway. The other is termed a constitutive pathway to renew cell surface lipids and proteins including KATP channels.

“We have now found that the newly manufactured KATP channels in insulin-secreting cells reside in a non-insulin-containing structure, which contains the regulated secretory granule marker chromogranin,” says Per-Olof Berggren. “Such a structure moves to the cell surface subsequent to elevation of sugar concentration in a Ca2+- and protein kinase A-dependent fashion.”

According to Professor Berggren the discovery is very important. This entirely new traffic route endows insulin-secreting cells with an efficient way to maintain an appropriate number of KATP channels on their surface and thereby being able to adequately keep the blood glucose concentration within the normal range thus avoiding the development of diabetes.

“Glucose Recruits KATP Channels via Non-Insulin-Containing Dense-Core
Granules”, Shao-Nian Yang, Nancy Dekki Wenna, Jia Yu, Guang Yang, Hua
Qiu, Lina Yu, Lisa Juntti-Berggren, Martin Köhler and Per-Olof
Berggren, Cell Metabolism, September 5, 2007

For further information, please contact:

Docent Shao-Nian Yang
The Rolf Luft Research Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology
Phone: +46 8 517 794 56

Professor Per-Olof Berggren
The Rolf Luft Research Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology
Phone: +46 8 517 757 31
Mobile: +46 70 729 57 31

Press Officer Katarina Sternudd
Phone: +46 8 524 838 95
Mobile: +46 70 224 38 95

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