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Zinc transporter 8 (ZnT8), encoded by SLC30A8, is chiefly expressed within pancreatic islet cells, where it mediates zinc (Zn(2+)) uptake into secretory granules. Although a common nonsynonymous polymorphism (R325W), which lowers activity, is associated with increased type 2 diabetes (T2D) risk, rare inactivating mutations in SLC30A8 have been reported to protect against T2D. Here, we generate and characterize new mouse models to explore the impact on glucose homeostasis of graded changes in ZnT8 activity in the beta-cell. Firstly, Slc30a8 was deleted highly selectively in these cells using the novel deleter strain, Ins1Cre. The resultant Ins1CreZnT8KO mice displayed significant (P < .05) impairments in glucose tolerance at 10 weeks of age vs littermate controls, and glucose-induced increases in circulating insulin were inhibited in vivo. Although insulin release from Ins1CreZnT8KO islets was normal, Zn(2+) release was severely impaired. Conversely, transgenic ZnT8Tg mice, overexpressing the transporter inducibly in the adult beta-cell using an insulin promoter-dependent Tet-On system, showed significant (P < .01) improvements in glucose tolerance compared with control animals. Glucose-induced insulin secretion from ZnT8Tg islets was severely impaired, whereas Zn(2+) release was significantly enhanced. Our findings demonstrate that glucose homeostasis in the mouse improves as beta-cell ZnT8 activity increases, and remarkably, these changes track Zn(2+) rather than insulin release in vitro. Activation of ZnT8 in beta-cells might therefore provide the basis of a novel approach to treating T2D.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Endocrinol

Publication Date





77 - 91


Animals Cation Transport Proteins/*genetics/metabolism Glucose Intolerance/*genetics/metabolism Homeostasis Insulin/*metabolism Insulin-Secreting Cells/metabolism Islets of Langerhans/*metabolism Mice Mice, Transgenic Secretory Vesicles/metabolism Zinc Transporter 8