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Title: The role of genetic variation in glucokinase and glucokinase regulatory protein in diabetes and related traits
Author: Beer, Nicola L.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2710 8951
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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The rising prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a global problem, and suggests that we need better therapeutic strategies against this disease. The glycolytic enzyme glucokinase (GCK) catalyses the phosphorylation of glucose, and is a well-established T2D drug target. Rare GCK mutations cause monogenic beta-cell dysfunction, whilst common genetic variants within GCK are associated with fasting plasma glucose (FPG) levels and T2D risk. Since GCK is expressed in both the pancreas and liver, pharmacological GCK activation provides the promise of a two-pronged attack on hyperglycaemia. In vivo, GCK activity is modulated by the hepatic inhibitor glucokinase regulatory protein (GKRP, gene GCKR). GKRP negatively regulates GCK activity competitively with respect to glucose, and is controlled by fructose 6- and fructose 1-phosphate (F6P and F1P), which compete with each other for binding and enhance or diminish GCK inhibition respectively. GKRP also sequesters GCK in the nucleus and paradoxically stabilises the enzyme. As GCK and its regulatory protein are fundamental to glucose homeostasis, we aimed to investigate the role of genetic variation in both GCK and GCKR to further our understanding of these important T2D drug targets in a system that would be relevant to man. I demonstrated that two novel GCK mutations (T103S and V389L) identified in patients with hyperinsulinaemic hypoglycaemia were kinetically activating and through structural modelling identified a novel regulatory site for GCK activation by small molecular activators. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) identified GCKR as a regulator of FPG and triglyceride levels, and showed a role for GKRP in T2D risk. Unlike most GWAS hits, this signal included a non-synonymous variant within GCKR (P446L), thus facilitating functional studies. P446L-GKRP was characterised kinetically and at the cellular sequestration-level. This variant showed diminished F6P-mediated modulation, which was proposed to reduce hepatic GCK inhibition, increase glycolytic flux (decreasing FPG), and feed metabolites into liver pathways (elevating triglycerides). As GCKR was not expressed at functional levels within human islets, this phenotype was thought to be driven by the liver. Preliminary analysis at the cellular level was inconclusive, with optimisation required to study human P446L-GKRP in this cellular system. Finally, I showed that mutations within GCKR are not a common cause of “GCK-Like” phenotypes in man, despite the regulatory protein directly modulating GCK activity. These data provide further insight as to the pathogenic consequences of perturbing GCK activity. This must be considered if this enzyme is to be the subject of therapeutic intervention in T2D.
Supervisor: Gloyn, Anna L. ; Rorsman, Patrik Sponsor: Medical Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Endocrinology ; Biochemistry ; Metabolism ; Medical Sciences ; Clinical genetics ; Diabetes ; Genetics (medical sciences) ; diabetes ; metabolism ; monogenic disease ; genetics ; glucokinase ; glucokinase regulatory protein