Blockade of Na+ Channels in Pancreatic α-Cells has Anti-Diabetic Effects

  1. Luiz Belardinelli
  1. Department of Biology, Cardiovascular Therapeutic Area, Gilead Sciences, Inc.
  1. Corresponding Author: Arvinder K. Dhalla, Email:Arvinder.Dhalla{at}


Pancreatic α-cells express voltage-gated Na+ channels (NaChs) which support the generation of electrical activity leading to increase in intracellular calcium and causes exocytosis of glucagon. Ranolazine, a NaCh blocker, is approved for treatment for angina. In addition to its anti-anginal effects, ranolazine has been shown to reduce HbA1c in patients with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and coronary artery disease; however, the mechanism behind its anti-diabetic effect has been unclear. We tested the hypothesis that ranolazine exerts its anti-diabetic effects by inhibiting glucagon release via blockade of NaChs in the pancreatic α-cells. Our data show that ranolazine, via blockade of NaChs in pancreatic α-cells, inhibits their electrical activity and reduces glucagon release. We found that glucagon release in human pancreatic islets is mediated by the Nav1.3 isoform. In animal models of diabetes ranolazine and a more selective NaCh blocker (GS-458967) lowered postprandial and basal glucagon levels, which were associated with a reduction in hyperglycemia, confirming that glucose-lowering effects of ranolazine are due to blockade of NaChs. This mechanism of action is unique in that no other approved anti-diabetic drugs act via this mechanism, and raises the prospect that selective Nav1.3 blockers may constitute a novel approach for the treatment of diabetes.


  • * These authors contributed equally

  • Received October 10, 2013.
  • Accepted April 30, 2014.

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