ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channels are an essential component of glucose-dependent insulin secretion in pancreatic islet β-cells. These channels comprise the sulfonylurea receptor (SUR1) and Kir6.2, a member of the inward rectifier K+ channel family. Mutations in the SUR1 subunit are associated with familial hyperinsulinism (HI) (MIM:256450), an inherited disorder characterized by hyperinsulinism in the neonate. Since the Kir6.2 gene maps to human chromosome 11p15.1 (1,2), which also encompasses a locus for HI, we screened the Kir6.2 gene for the presence of mutations in 78 HI probands by single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) and nucleotide sequence analyses. A nonsense mutation, Tyr→Stop at codon 12 (designated Y12X) was observed in the homozygous state in a single proband. 86Rb+ efflux measurements and single-channel recordings of COS-1 cells co-expressing SUR1 and either wild-type or Y12X mutant Kir6.2 proteins confirmed that KATP channel activity was abolished by this nonsense mutation. The identification of an HI patient homozygous for the Kir6.2/Y12X allele affords an opportunity to observe clinical features associated with mutations resulting in an absence of Kir6.2. These data provide evidence that mutations in the Kir6.2 sub-unit of the islet β-cell KATP channel are associated with the HI phenotype and also suggest that the majority of HI cases are not attributable to mutations in the coding region of the Kir6.2 gene.

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