The Zinc Transporter Slc30a8/ZnT8 Is Required in a Subpopulation of Pancreatic α-Cells for Hypoglycemia-induced Glucagon Secretion

Antonia Solomou, Gargi Meur, Elisa Bellomo, David J Hodson, Alejandra Tomas, Stéphanie Migrenne Li, Erwann Philippe, Pedro L Herrera, Christophe Magnan, Guy A Rutter

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31 Citations (Scopus)


SLC30A8 encodes a zinc transporter ZnT8 largely restricted to pancreatic islet β- and α-cells, and responsible for zinc accumulation into secretory granules. Although common SLC30A8 variants, believed to reduce ZnT8 activity, increase type 2 diabetes risk in humans, rare inactivating mutations are protective. To investigate the role of Slc30a8 in the control of glucagon secretion, Slc30a8 was inactivated selectively in α-cells by crossing mice with alleles floxed at exon 1 to animals expressing Cre recombinase under the pre-proglucagon promoter. Further crossing to Rosa26:tdRFP mice, and sorting of RFP(+): glucagon(+) cells from KO mice, revealed recombination in ∼30% of α-cells, of which ∼50% were ZnT8-negative (14 ± 1.8% of all α-cells). Although glucose and insulin tolerance were normal, female αZnT8KO mice required lower glucose infusion rates during hypoglycemic clamps and displayed enhanced glucagon release (p < 0.001) versus WT mice. Correspondingly, islets isolated from αZnT8KO mice secreted more glucagon at 1 mm glucose, but not 17 mm glucose, than WT controls (n = 5; p = 0.008). Although the expression of other ZnT family members was unchanged, cytoplasmic (n = 4 mice per genotype; p < 0.0001) and granular (n = 3, p < 0.01) free Zn(2+) levels were significantly lower in KO α-cells versus control cells. In response to low glucose, the amplitude and frequency of intracellular Ca(2+) increases were unchanged in α-cells of αZnT8KO KO mice. ZnT8 is thus important in a subset of α-cells for normal responses to hypoglycemia and acts via Ca(2+)-independent mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21432-42
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number35
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2015

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© 2015 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.


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