Current status of the E23K Kir6.2 polymorphism: implications for type-2 diabetes
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The ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channel couples membrane excitability to cellular metabolism and is a critical mediator in the process of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Increasing numbers of KATP channel polymorphisms are being described and linked to altered insulin secretion indicating that genes encoding this ion channel could be susceptibility markers for type-2 diabetes. Genetic variation of KATP channels may result in altered β-cell electrical activity, glucose homeostasis, and increased susceptibility to type-2 diabetes. Of particular interest is the Kir6.2 E23K polymorphism, which is linked to increased susceptibility to type-2 diabetes in Caucasian populations and may also be associated with weight gain and obesity, both of which are major diabetes risk factors. This association highlights the potential contribution of both genetic and environmental factors to the development and progression of type-2 diabetes. In addition, the common occurrence of the E23K polymorphism in Caucasian populations may have conferred an evolutionary advantage to our ancestors. This review will summarize the current status of the association of KATP channel polymorphisms with type-2 diabetes, focusing on the possible mechanisms by which these polymorphisms alter glucose homeostasis and offering insights into possible evolutionary pressures that may have contributed to the high prevalence of KATP channel polymorphisms in the Caucasian population.