, Volume 49, Issue 7, pp 1567-1577
Date: 12 May 2006

Intracellular ATP-sensitive K+ channels in mouse pancreatic beta cells: against a role in organelle cation homeostasis



ATP-sensitive K+ (KATP) channels located on the beta cell plasma membrane play a critical role in regulating insulin secretion and are targets for the sulfonylurea class of antihyperglycaemic drugs. Recent reports suggest that these channels may also reside on insulin-containing dense-core vesicles and mitochondria. The aim of this study was to explore these possibilities and to test the hypothesis that vesicle-resident channels play a role in the control of organellar Ca2+ concentration or pH.


To quantify the subcellular distribution of the pore-forming subunit Kir6.2 and the sulfonylurea binding subunit SUR1 in isolated mouse islets and clonal pancreatic MIN6 beta cells, we used four complementary techniques: immunoelectron microscopy, density gradient fractionation, vesicle immunopurification and fluorescence-activated vesicle isolation. Intravesicular and mitochondrial concentrations of free Ca2+ were measured in intact or digitonin-permeabilised MIN6 cells using recombinant, targeted aequorins, and intravesicular pH was measured with the recombinant fluorescent probe pHluorin.


SUR1 and Kir6.2 immunoreactivity were concentrated on dense-core vesicles and on vesicles plus the endoplasmic reticulum/Golgi network, respectively, in both islets and MIN6 cells. Reactivity to neither subunit was detected on mitochondria. Glibenclamide, tolbutamide and diazoxide all failed to affect Ca2+ uptake into mitochondria, and KATP channel regulators had no significant effect on intravesicular free Ca2+ concentrations or vesicular pH.


A significant proportion of Kir6.2 and SUR1 subunits reside on insulin-secretory vesicles and the distal secretory pathway in mouse beta cells but do not influence intravesicular ion homeostasis. We propose that dense-core vesicles may serve instead as sorting stations for the delivery of channels to the plasma membrane.