Genome-Wide Meta-analysis Identifies Genetic Variants Associated With Glycemic Response to Sulfonylureas

Diabetes Care. 2021 Dec;44(12):2673-2682. doi: 10.2337/dc21-1152. Epub 2021 Oct 4.


Objective: Sulfonylureas, the first available drugs for the management of type 2 diabetes, remain widely prescribed today. However, there exists significant variability in glycemic response to treatment. We aimed to establish heritability of sulfonylurea response and identify genetic variants and interacting treatments associated with HbA1c reduction.

Research design and methods: As an initiative of the Metformin Genetics Plus Consortium (MetGen Plus) and the DIabetes REsearCh on patient straTification (DIRECT) consortium, 5,485 White Europeans with type 2 diabetes treated with sulfonylureas were recruited from six referral centers in Europe and North America. We first estimated heritability using the generalized restricted maximum likelihood approach and then undertook genome-wide association studies of glycemic response to sulfonylureas measured as HbA1c reduction after 12 months of therapy followed by meta-analysis. These results were supported by acute glipizide challenge in humans who were naïve to type 2 diabetes medications, cis expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL), and functional validation in cellular models. Finally, we examined for possible drug-drug-gene interactions.

Results: After establishing that sulfonylurea response is heritable (mean ± SEM 37 ± 11%), we identified two independent loci near the GXYLT1 and SLCO1B1 genes associated with HbA1c reduction at a genome-wide scale (P < 5 × 10-8). The C allele at rs1234032, near GXYLT1, was associated with 0.14% (1.5 mmol/mol), P = 2.39 × 10-8), lower reduction in HbA1c. Similarly, the C allele was associated with higher glucose trough levels (β = 1.61, P = 0.005) in healthy volunteers in the SUGAR-MGH given glipizide (N = 857). In 3,029 human whole blood samples, the C allele is a cis eQTL for increased expression of GXYLT1 (β = 0.21, P = 2.04 × 10-58). The C allele of rs10770791, in an intronic region of SLCO1B1, was associated with 0.11% (1.2 mmol/mol) greater reduction in HbA1c (P = 4.80 × 10-8). In 1,183 human liver samples, the C allele at rs10770791 is a cis eQTL for reduced SLCO1B1 expression (P = 1.61 × 10-7), which, together with functional studies in cells expressing SLCO1B1, supports a key role for hepatic SLCO1B1 (encoding OATP1B1) in regulation of sulfonylurea transport. Further, a significant interaction between statin use and SLCO1B1 genotype was observed (P = 0.001). In statin nonusers, C allele homozygotes at rs10770791 had a large absolute reduction in HbA1c (0.48 ± 0.12% [5.2 ± 1.26 mmol/mol]), equivalent to that associated with initiation of a dipeptidyl peptidase 4 inhibitor.

Conclusions: We have identified clinically important genetic effects at genome-wide levels of significance, and important drug-drug-gene interactions, which include commonly prescribed statins. With increasing availability of genetic data embedded in clinical records these findings will be important in prescribing glucose-lowering drugs.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / drug therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Liver-Specific Organic Anion Transporter 1 / genetics
  • Metformin* / therapeutic use
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds / therapeutic use


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Liver-Specific Organic Anion Transporter 1
  • SLCO1B1 protein, human
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds
  • Metformin

Associated data

  • figshare/10.2337/figshare.16593023