Sulfonylurea Stimulation of Insulin Secretion

  1. Peter Proks1,
  2. Frank Reimann2,
  3. Nick Green1,
  4. Fiona Gribble2 and
  5. Frances Ashcroft1
  1. 1University Laboratory of Physiology, Oxford University, Oxford, U.K
  2. 2Department of Clinical Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, U.K


    Sulfonylureas are widely used to treat type 2 diabetes because they stimulate insulin secretion from pancreatic β-cells. They primarily act by binding to the SUR subunit of the ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channel and inducing channel closure. However, the channel is still able to open to a limited extent when the drug is bound, so that high-affinity sulfonylurea inhibition is not complete, even at saturating drug concentrations. KATP channels are also found in cardiac, skeletal, and smooth muscle, but in these tissues are composed of different SUR subunits that confer different drug sensitivities. Thus tolbutamide and gliclazide block channels containing SUR1 (β-cell type), but not SUR2 (cardiac, smooth muscle types), whereas glibenclamide, glimepiride, repaglinide, and meglitinide block both types of channels. This difference has been exploited to determine residues contributing to the sulfonylurea-binding site. Sulfonylurea block is decreased by mutations or agents (e.g., phosphatidylinositol bisphosphate) that increase KATP channel open probability. We now propose a kinetic model that explains this effect in terms of changes in the channel open probability and in the transduction between the drug-binding site and the channel gate. We also clarify the mechanism by which MgADP produces an apparent increase of sulfonylurea efficacy on channels containing SUR1 (but not SUR2).


    • Address correspondence and reprint requests to Prof. Frances M. Ashcroft, University Laboratory of Physiology, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PT, U.K. E-mail: frances.ashcroft{at}

      Received for publication 12 March 2002 and accepted in revised form 8 May 2002.

      IC50, half-maximal inhibitory concentration value; KATP channel, ATP-sensitive potassium channel; Kir channel, inwardly rectifying K+ channel; NBD, nucleotide-binding domain; PO, open probability; SUR, sulfonylurea receptor; TM, transmembrane helix.

      P.P., F.G., and F.A. receive honoraria from Servier for speaking engagements. F.A. is a paid consultant for NovoNordisk.

      The symposium and the publication of this article have been made possible by an unrestricted educational grant from Servier, Paris.

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