Researchers identify gene that regulates glucose levels

Jun 03, 2008

In an effort to understand how genes work, a collaborative study which includes the University of Southern California (USC) has identified a gene that regulates glucose levels. The results, which will be published in the July issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation and is currently available online, may provide further understanding of the underlying causes of diabetes.

"Elevations of blood glucose are diagnostic of diabetes. This finding demonstrates there are gene variants that are important for day-to-day regulation of glucose, but they do not appear to play a significant role in disease risk," says Richard M. Watanabe, Ph.D., associate professor of preventive medicine and physiology & biophysics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and co-senior author of the paper.

The study determined that this variant is not associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

"The identification of these variants increases our basic biologic knowledge about regulation of glucose and may also be useful in future genetic studies to help discriminate between genetic variants that do or do not contribute to disease susceptibility," continues Watanabe.

The study examined genetic information from more than 24,000 people. Researchers scanned the genomes of more than 5,000 participants by combining the genome-wide association (GWA) findings from the Finland-United States Investigation of Non-insulin-dependent Diabetes Mellitus (FUSION) study and the SardiNIA study of aging.

The results determined that a gene on chromosome 2 that encodes for the enzyme glucose-6-phosphatase catalytic 2 (G6PC2) is associated with fasting glucose levels.

"G6PC2 is primarily expressed in the beta-cells of the pancreas and is responsible for converting glucose-6-phosphate back to glucose," says Watanabe. "Genetic variation of G6PC2 may be responsible for reducing insulin secretion and causing the glucose concentration to increase."

Glucose concentrations increased with each additional copy of the higher frequency variant of the gene. Watanabe adds that chronically higher levels of glucose may be a precursor for type 2 diabetes. The critical role of beta-cell function in the development of type 2 diabetes have also been demonstrated through previous studies by Richard N. Bergman, Ph.D., professor of physiology and biophysics and Thomas A. Buchanan, M.D. professor of endocrinology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

To validate the findings, the results were compared to a second set of FUSION participants in addition to individuals from six other studies of Northern European descent.

According to Buchanan, a co-author of the paper, the finding points to the importance of studying not just diseases like diabetes, but also the regulation of phenotypes like blood glucose.

"Genetics is identifying a whole new set of genes, proteins and pathways that are related to diabetes and blood sugar control. Our next challenge is to figure out how these genes work," says Buchanan.

Source: University of Southern California

Explore further: New gene technique identifies previously hidden causes of brain malformation

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mexico acid leak leaves orange river, toxic water

7 hours ago

Ramona Yesenia stood in her town square with two empty jugs, waiting for water to replace the municipal supply contaminated by a chemical spill that turned Mexico's Sonora river orange.

Recommended for you

Gene therapy protects mice from heart condition

Aug 20, 2014

A new gene therapy developed by researchers at the University of Missouri School of Medicine has been shown to protect mice from a life-threatening heart condition caused by muscular dystrophy.

Study finds crucial step in DNA repair

Aug 18, 2014

Scientists at Washington State University have identified a crucial step in DNA repair that could lead to targeted gene therapy for hereditary diseases such as "children of the moon" and a common form of ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

westonprice
not rated yet Jun 05, 2008
Diabetes is becoming more prevalent around the world. The consumption of sugar is growing. How can that be a genetic problem? Sounds like a sugar problem to me.