Decreasing Cx36 Gap Junction Coupling Compensates for Overactive KATP Channels to Restore Insulin Secretion and Prevent Hyperglycemia in a Mouse Model of Neonatal Diabetes

  1. Richard K.P. Benninger1,2
  1. 1Department of Bioengineering, University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO
  2. 2Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO
  1. Corresponding author: Richard K.P. Benninger, richard.benninger{at}
  1. L.M.N. and M.P. contributed equally to this study.


Mutations to the ATP-sensitive K+ channel (KATP channel) that reduce the sensitivity of ATP inhibition cause neonatal diabetes mellitus via suppression of β-cell glucose-stimulated free calcium activity ([Ca2+]i) and insulin secretion. Connexin-36 (Cx36) gap junctions also regulate islet electrical activity; upon knockout of Cx36, β-cells show [Ca2+]i elevations at basal glucose. We hypothesized that in the presence of overactive ATP-insensitive KATP channels, a reduction in Cx36 would allow elevations in glucose-stimulated [Ca2+]i and insulin secretion to improve glucose homeostasis. To test this, we introduced a genetic knockout of Cx36 into mice that express ATP-insensitive KATP channels and measured glucose homeostasis and islet metabolic, electrical, and insulin secretion responses. In the normal presence of Cx36, after expression of ATP-insensitive KATP channels, blood glucose levels rapidly rose to >500 mg/dL. Islets from these mice showed reduced glucose-stimulated [Ca2+]i and no insulin secretion. In mice lacking Cx36 after expression of ATP-insensitive KATP channels, normal glucose levels were maintained. Islets from these mice had near-normal glucose-stimulated [Ca2+]i and insulin secretion. We therefore demonstrate a novel mechanism by which islet function can be recovered in a monogenic model of diabetes. A reduction of gap junction coupling allows sufficient glucose-stimulated [Ca2+]i and insulin secretion to prevent the emergence of diabetes.


  • Received July 3, 2013.
  • Accepted January 8, 2014.

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