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New diabetes discovery: Proteins regulate blood sugar

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Anchoring proteins help regulate blood sugar in skeletal muscles.

A new protein discovery could become a new target for treating diabetes. What scientists have discovered is that A-kinase anchoring proteins or AKAPs influence levels of glucose in the body in a first discovery. The researchers say the new finding means they can move forward to develop drugs that interfere with the protein’s function.

For their study the researchers used imaging techniques combined with genetically modified insulin cells and whole mice. They found that mice lacking AKAP150 anchoring protein didn’t produce as much insulin from beta cells in the pancreas, but they had better insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscles. The scientists were able to show glucose control came from a seven-amino-acid sequence in the anchor protein that directly interacts with the surface of phosphatase enzyme.

The proteins control the position of naturally occurring enzymes known as phosphatases inside the cells. Phosphatase enzymes are important for regulating molecular events related to blood sugar control.

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“Our discovery that anchored enzymes contribute to the regulation of cellular events that underlie diabetes may help us to move more rapidly toward new therapies to control this increasingly prevalent metabolic disease,” commented John Scott, Edwin G. Krebs–Hilma Speights Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in a press release.

The goal would be to develop drugs that interact with the proteins to influence enzymes to improve insulin sensitivity in the skeletal muscles.

The researchers note though insulin is the main way glucose is controlled in the body, it’s feasible that improving insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscles could not only help treat diabetes, but other metabolic disorders in addition to patients taking drugs to suppress immunity after organ transplant.

Embo Journal
August 31, 2012

Image credit: Morguefile