Preservation of Reduced Numbers of Insulin-Positive Cells in Sulfonylurea-Unresponsive KCNJ11-Related Diabetes

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Jan 1;102(1):1-5. doi: 10.1210/jc.2016-2826.


Context: The most common genetic cause of permanent neonatal diabetes mellitus is activating mutations in KCNJ11, which can usually be treated using oral sulfonylureas (SUs) instead of insulin injections, although some mutations are SU unresponsive. In this work, we provide a report of the pancreatic islet endocrine cell composition and area in a patient with an SU-unresponsive KCNJ11 mutation (p.G334D), in comparison with age-matched controls.

Case description: Pancreatic autopsy tissue sections from a 2-year-old female child diagnosed with KCNJ11-related diabetes at 4 days of age and 13 age-matched controls were stained with insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, pancreatic polypeptide, and Ki67 antibodies to determine islet endocrine cell composition and area. β-cell ultrastructure was assessed by electron microscopic (EM) analysis. The patient's pancreas (sampling from head to tail) revealed insulin-positive cells in all regions. The pancreatic β-cell (insulin) area was significantly reduced compared with controls: 0.50% ± 0.04% versus 1.67% ± 0.20%, respectively (P < 0.00001). There were no significant differences in α-cell (glucagon) or δ-cell (somatostatin) area. EM analysis revealed secretory granules with a dense core typical of mature β-cells as well as granules with a lighter core characteristic of immature granules.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that mechanisms exist that allow preservation of β-cells in the absence of insulin secretion. It remains to be determined to what extent this reduction in β-cells may be reversible.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / pathology
  • Drug Resistance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / drug effects
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / pathology*
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying / genetics*
  • Prognosis
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds / pharmacology*


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Kir6.2 channel
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds

Supplementary concepts

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Permanent Neonatal