Chapter

Diabetes - Perspectives in Drug Therapy

Volume 203 of the series Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology pp 357-401

Date:

Research and Development of Glucokinase Activators for Diabetes Therapy: Theoretical and Practical Aspects

  • Franz M. MatschinskyAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of Pennsylvania, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism Email author 
  • , Bogumil ZelentAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of Pennsylvania
  • , Nicolai M. DolibaAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of Pennsylvania, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism
  • , Klaus H. KaestnerAffiliated withDepartment of Genetics, University of Pennsylvania, Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism
  • , Jane M. VanderkooiAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of Pennsylvania
  • , Joseph GrimsbyAffiliated withDepartment of Metabolic Diseases, Roche Research Center
  • , Steven J. BerthelAffiliated withDepartment of Discovery Chemistry, Roche Research Center
  • , Ramakanth SarabuAffiliated withDepartment of Discovery Chemistry, Roche Research Center

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Abstract

Glucokinase (GK ; EC 2.7.1.1.) phosphorylates and regulates glucose metabolism in insulin-producing pancreatic beta-cells, hepatocytes, and certain cells of the endocrine and nervous systems allowing it to play a central role in glucose homeostasis . Most importantly, it serves as glucose sensor in pancreatic beta-cells mediating glucose-stimulated insulin biosynthesis and release and it governs the capacity of the liver to convert glucose to glycogen. Activating and inactivating mutations of the glucokinase gene cause autosomal dominant hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia and hypoinsulinemic hyperglycemia in humans, respectively, illustrating the preeminent role of glucokinase in the regulation of blood glucose and also identifying the enzyme as a potential target for developing antidiabetic drugs . Small molecules called glucokinase activators (GKAs) which bind to an allosteric activator site of the enzyme have indeed been discovered and hold great promise as new antidiabetic agents. GKAs increase the enzyme’s affinity for glucose and also its maximal catalytic rate. Consequently, they stimulate insulin biosynthesis and secretion, enhance hepatic glucose uptake, and augment glucose metabolism and related processes in other glucokinase-expressing cells. Manifestations of these effects, most prominently a lowering of blood glucose, are observed in normal laboratory animals and man but also in animal models of diabetes and patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM ) . These compelling concepts and results sustain a strong R&D effort by many pharmaceutical companies to generate GKAs with characteristics allowing for a novel drug treatment of T2DM.

Keywords

GK Activators (GKAs) Glucokinase (GK ) Glucose Homeostasis Hyperglycemia Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM )