Pancreatic β-Cell Electrical Activity and Insulin Secretion: Of Mice and Men

Physiol Rev. 2018 Jan 1;98(1):117-214. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00008.2017.


The pancreatic β-cell plays a key role in glucose homeostasis by secreting insulin, the only hormone capable of lowering the blood glucose concentration. Impaired insulin secretion results in the chronic hyperglycemia that characterizes type 2 diabetes (T2DM), which currently afflicts >450 million people worldwide. The healthy β-cell acts as a glucose sensor matching its output to the circulating glucose concentration. It does so via metabolically induced changes in electrical activity, which culminate in an increase in the cytoplasmic Ca2+ concentration and initiation of Ca2+-dependent exocytosis of insulin-containing secretory granules. Here, we review recent advances in our understanding of the β-cell transcriptome, electrical activity, and insulin exocytosis. We highlight salient differences between mouse and human β-cells, provide models of how the different ion channels contribute to their electrical activity and insulin secretion, and conclude by discussing how these processes become perturbed in T2DM.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Exocytosis / physiology
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Mice


  • Calcium Channels
  • Insulin