The pancreatic B-cell ATP-sensitive potassium channel (K(ATP)) is composed of two distinct subunits, an inwardly rectifying ion channel forming the pore (Kir6.2), and a regulatory subunit, namely the sulfonylurea receptor-1 (SUR1), which binds this widely used class of insulin-secreting drugs. Mutations in the genes encoding Kir6.2 and SUR1 may result in familial persistent hyperinsulinemic hypoglycaemia of infancy, demonstrating their role in the regulation of insulin secretion. Studies in various populations with different ethnic background provided evidence that various alleles of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the SUR1 gene, and to a less extent in the Kir6.2 gene, confer a significantly increased risk for the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Allelic variations of these SNPs were shown to modulate insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity in vivo, thus providing a pathophysiological background to explain their contribution to the genetic susceptibility to T2DM. The aim of this review is to summarise and discuss the significant results of recent literature on the implication of K(ATP), and particularly of SUR1, in the genetic and pathopysiological mechanisms of T2DM.