A tale of two glucose transporters: how GLUT2 re-emerged as a contender for glucose transport into the human beta cell.
van de Bunt M., Gloyn AL.
Finding novel causes for monogenic forms of diabetes is important as, alongside the clinical implications of such a discovery, it can identify critical proteins and pathways required for normal beta cell function in humans. It is increasingly apparent that there are significant differences between rodent and human islets. One example that has generated interest is the relative importance of the glucose transporter GLUT2 in rodent and human beta cells. The central role of GLUT2 in rodent beta cells is well established, but a number of studies have suggested that other glucose transporters, namely GLUT1 and GLUT3, may play an important role in facilitating glucose transport into human beta cells. In this issue of Diabetologia Sansbury et al (DOI: 10.1007/s00125-012-2595-0 ) report homozygous loss of function mutations in SLC2A2, which encodes GLUT2, as a rare cause of neonatal diabetes. Evidence for a beta cell defect in these subjects comes from very low birthweights, lack of endogenous insulin secretion and a requirement for insulin therapy. Neonatal diabetes is not a consistent feature of SLC2A2 mutations. It is only found in a small percentage of cases (~4%) and the diabetes largely resolves before 18 months of age. This discovery is significant as it suggests that GLUT2 plays an important role in human beta cells, but the interplay and relative roles of other transporters differ from those in rodents. This finding should encourage efforts to delineate the precise role of GLUT2 in the human beta cell at different developmental time points and is a further reminder of critical differences between human and rodent islets.