Regulation of endocytic trafficking of KATP channels by protein kinase C

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Research & Innovation Services


Lay summary: Type-2 diabetes is characterized by an increase in blood glucose. Prolonged elevation of plasma glucose levels could result in kidney, heart and nerve damage, often leading to blindness, kidney failure, amputation of the extremities and, almost certainly, premature death. In normal people, such increased levels are avoided by the regulated release of the chemical messenger insulin from the pancreas. This is because insulin helps removal of excess glucose by muscle, liver and fat tissues. However, in diabetes, the tissues become resistant to insulin and fail to remove excess glucose from the blood. Although pancreas initially responds to this by pumping more insulin into the blood, it gradually loses this ability. As a result, insulin levels drop resulting in severe diabetes. The reasons for the secretion failure are not entirely clear, but research has demonstrated that a protein, known as the KATP channel, plays a crucial role. This channel sits in the membrane which surrounds the insulin containing pancreatic cell. Whenever, blood glucose levels rise, for example after a meal, the channel sends out electrical signals to insulin storage sites within the cell and trigger insulin release. Genetic screening studies revealed that mutations in the genes encoding the channel can predispose individuals to type-2 diabetes. The mechanisms by which the channel sense rise in blood glucose levels and triggers insulin release are not fully understood. The aim of this proposal is to improve our understanding of the mechanisms and exploit the understanding to develop novel strategies for treatment or prevention of insulin secretion disorders including type-2 diabetes, the incidence of which is reaching endemic proportions. The work will employ the state-of-the art techniques in modern biology and will be carried out by a team of expert scientists whose major goal is to make discoveries that lead to safer and effective disease treatments.

Technical Summary

Pancreatic ?-cells secrete insulin in response to increase in blood sugar, a process known as glucose stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS). This ability can be progressively lost by the ?-cells leading to type-2 diabetes. Large scale genome-wide association studies have established a strong link between type-2 diabetes and polymorphic mutations in KCNJ11. KCNJ11 encodes Kir6.2, which together with SUR1, forms the KATP channel, well known for its role in GSIS. Some genetic mutations in Kir6.2 and SUR1 cause severe diseases, such as congenital hyperinsulinism and neonatal diabetes by affecting the trafficking of the channel to, and out of, the plasma membrane. This raises the previously unrecognized possibility that cellular signals may alter channel trafficking and thus play a physiological role in GSIS. Using a pancreatic ?-cell line, we found that acute pharmacological activation of protein kinase C (PKC) stimulates KATP channel activity, but chronic activation decreases its cell surface density by reducing the rate of recycling of internalised channels. The effect on recycling is significant because glucose and other insulin secretagogues stimulate PKC and PKC activation enhances insulin secretion. Thus we propose that PKC induced downregulation of channel density stimulates insulin secretion.

Our hypothesis is that kinetic retention from recycling provides a mechanism for tightly tuning the abundance of KATP channels at the plasma membrane by shifting the steady-state equilibrium between intracellular compartments and the plasma membrane and that this is linked to GSIS. We will test the hypothesis using molecular, cell biological, biochemical and physiological approaches. Specifically, we will aim to:
1. identify the PKC isoform(s) responsible for activation and downregulation of KATP channels,
2. determine the PKC target/ site responsible for downregulation,
3. investigate the mechanism of recycling and how PKC reduces recycling, and
4. use the information and molecular tools (developed in aims 1-3) to understand the role of downregulation of channel density in insulin secretion.
This integrated, multidisciplinary approach will provide novel molecular information on how the function and trafficking of KATP channels are regulated by PKC and the role of regulated trafficking of the channel in GSIS, a fundamentally important aspect that has not been hitherto addressed. The studies may reveal novel therapeutic opportunities for treatment of insulin secretion disorders. Although our focus is the pancreatic KATP channel, the results will be applicable to KATP channels in other tissues, including the heart and brain, where PKC and KATP channels play a protective role in ischaemia.
Description BHF Project Grant
Amount £95,000 (GBP)
Funding ID PG10/68/28528 
Organisation British Heart Foundation (BHF) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2011 
End 02/2013
Description BHRC problem solving fund
Amount £25,580 (GBP)
Organisation University of Leeds 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2011 
End 03/2012
Description Wellcome Trust 4 year PhD programme: • The Molecular Basis of Biological Mechanisms
Amount £4,400,000 (GBP)
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2014 
End 09/2018
Description • Multi-user confocal Imaging equipment
Amount £192,763 (GBP)
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2014 
End 11/2014
Title KATP stable cell lines 
Description HEK 293 cells stably expressing the sulphonylurea receptor alone or sulphonylurea receptor plus Kir6.2 have been developed 
Type Of Material Cell line 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The cell lines will be made available to other reseachers upon request 
Title degradation assay for surface channels 
Description A surface biotinilyation assay to follow lysosomal degradation has been developed for the KATP channel 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This approach once published could be used for other membrane proteins 
Description Regulation of cardiac ATP-sensitive potassium channel 
Organisation University of Iowa
Department Department of Internal Medicine
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Supplied constructs
Collaborator Contribution Performed the majority of experiemts
Impact Currently under review by the Journal of Biological chemistry
Start Year 2010
Description TRPM2 and cell death 
Organisation University of Leeds
Department School of Biomedical Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution My group contributed to the cellular and molecular basis for oxidative stress induced death of pancreatic beta cells and human endothelial cells. In collaboration with Chemistry department, we are screening novel chemical compounds for their ability to block TRPM2 and prevent cell death. This project has translational potential A related piece of work involved overexpression of hERG chimeras in Pichia pastoris for potential collaboration with X-ray crystallographers in Oxford/Leeds.
Collaborator Contribution My partners in the School of Biomedical Sciences (Prof. David Beech and Dr Lin-Hua Jiang) provided the TRPM2 knock-out animals. The other partners are from Chemistry Department ( Prof Fishwick and Dr Foster) who synthesised chemical novel compounds. This work is currently funded by BHRC of Leeds University (AS is a joint applicant) and PharmaHub of the University of Leeds
Impact In Progress
Start Year 2012