Interindividual Heterogeneity of SGLT2 Expression and Function in Human Pancreatic Islets

Diabetes. 2020 May;69(5):902-914. doi: 10.2337/db19-0888. Epub 2020 Jan 2.


Studies implicating sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors in glucagon secretion by pancreatic α-cells reported controversial results. We hypothesized that interindividual heterogeneity in SGLT2 expression and regulation may affect glucagon secretion by human α-cells in response to SGLT2 inhibitors. An unbiased RNA-sequencing analysis of 207 donors revealed an unprecedented level of heterogeneity of SLC5A2 expression. To determine heterogeneity of SGLT2 expression at the protein level, the anti-SGLT2 antibody was first rigorously evaluated for specificity, followed by Western blot and immunofluorescence analysis on islets from 10 and 12 donors, respectively. The results revealed a high interdonor variability of SGLT2 protein expression. Quantitative analysis of 665 human islets showed a significant SGLT2 protein colocalization with glucagon but not with insulin or somatostatin. Moreover, glucagon secretion by islets from 31 donors at low glucose (1 mmol/L) was also heterogeneous and correlated with dapagliflozin-induced glucagon secretion at 6 mmol/L glucose. Intriguingly, islets from three donors did not secrete glucagon in response to either 1 mmol/L glucose or dapagliflozin, indicating a functional impairment of the islets of these donors to glucose sensing and SGLT2 inhibition. Collectively, these data suggest that heterogeneous expression of SGLT2 protein and variability in glucagon secretory responses contribute to interindividual differences in response to SGLT2 inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Blood Glucose
  • Databases, Nucleic Acid
  • Glucagon / metabolism
  • Glucose / administration & dosage
  • Glucose / pharmacology
  • Glucosides / pharmacology*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 / genetics
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 / immunology
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 / metabolism*
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors / pharmacology


  • Antibodies
  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Blood Glucose
  • Glucosides
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • SLC5A2 protein, human
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors
  • dapagliflozin
  • Glucagon
  • Glucose