Electrophysiology of pancreatic β-cells in intact mouse islets of Langerhans

Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2011 Nov;107(2):224-35. doi: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2011.06.009. Epub 2011 Jul 6.


When exposed to intermediate glucose concentrations (6-16 mol/l), pancreatic β-cells in intact islets generate bursts of action potentials (superimposed on depolarised plateaux) separated by repolarised electrically silent intervals. First described more than 40 years ago, these oscillations have continued to intrigue β-cell electrophysiologists. To date, most studies of β-cell ion channels have been performed on isolated cells maintained in tissue culture (that do not burst). Here we will review the electrophysiological properties of β-cells in intact, freshly isolated, mouse pancreatic islets. We will consider the role of ATP-regulated K⁺-channels (K(ATP)-channels), small-conductance Ca²⁺-activated K⁺-channels and voltage-gated Ca²⁺-channels in the generation of the bursts. Our data indicate that K(ATP)-channels not only constitute the glucose-regulated resting conductance in the β-cell but also provide a variable K⁺-conductance that influence the duration of the bursts of action potentials and the silent intervals. We show that inactivation of the voltage-gated Ca²⁺-current is negligible at voltages corresponding to the plateau potential and consequently unlikely to play a major role in the termination of the burst. Finally, we propose a model for glucose-induced β-cell electrical activity based on observations made in intact pancreatic islets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cations / metabolism
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • KATP Channels / metabolism
  • Mice


  • Cations
  • KATP Channels
  • Glucose