Phase Analysis of Metabolic Oscillations and Membrane Potential in Pancreatic Islet β-Cells

Biophys J. 2016 Feb 2;110(3):691-699. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2015.12.029.


Metabolism in islet β-cells displays oscillations that can trigger pulses of electrical activity and insulin secretion. There has been a decades-long debate among islet biologists about whether metabolic oscillations are intrinsic or occur in response to oscillations in intracellular Ca(2+) that result from bursting electrical activity. In this article, the dynamics of oscillatory metabolism were investigated using five different optical reporters. Reporter activity was measured simultaneously with membrane potential bursting to determine the phase relationships between the metabolic oscillations and electrical activity. Our experimental findings suggest that Ca(2+) entry into β-cells stimulates the rate of mitochondrial metabolism, accounting for the depletion of glycolytic intermediates during each oscillatory burst. We also performed Ca(2+) clamp tests in which we clamped membrane potential with the KATP channel-opener diazoxide and KCl to fix Ca(2+) at an elevated level. These tests confirm that metabolic oscillations do not require Ca(2+) oscillations, but show that Ca(2+) plays a larger role in shaping metabolic oscillations than previously suspected. A dynamical picture of the mechanisms of oscillations emerged that requires the restructuring of contemporary mathematical β-cell models, including our own dual oscillator model. In the companion article, we modified our model to account for these new data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / physiology
  • KATP Channels / metabolism
  • Membrane Potentials*
  • Mice


  • KATP Channels