Lipid-tuned zinc transport activity of human ZnT8 protein correlates with risk for type-2 diabetes

Chengfeng Merriman, Qiong Huang, Guy A. Rutter, Dax Fu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Zinc is a critical element for insulin storage in the secretory granules of pancreatic beta cells. The islet-specific zinc transporter ZnT8 mediates granular sequestration of zinc ions. A genetic variant of human ZnT8 arising from a single nonsynonymous nucleotide change contributes to increased susceptibility to type-2 diabetes (T2D), but it remains unclear how the high risk variant (Arg-325), which is also a higher frequency (>50%) allele, is correlated with zinc transport activity. Here, we compared the activity of Arg-325 with that of a low risk ZnT8 variant (Trp-325). The Arg-325 variant was found to be more active than the Trp-325 form following induced expression in HEK293 cells. We further examined the functional consequences of changing lipid conditions to mimic the impact of lipid remodeling on ZnT8 activity during insulin granule biogenesis. Purified ZnT8 variants in proteoliposomes exhibited more than 4-fold functional tunability by the anionic phospholipids, lysophosphatidylcholine and cholesterol. Over a broad range of permissive lipid compositions, the Arg-325 variant consistently exhibited accelerated zinc transport kinetics versus the Trp-form. In agreement with the human genetic finding that rare loss-of-function mutations in ZnT8 are associated with reduced T2D risk, our results suggested that the common high risk Arg-325 variant is hyperactive, and thus may be targeted for inhibition to reduce T2D risk in the general populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26950-26957
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number53
StatePublished - Dec 30 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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