Diabetes Forecast

Molecular Research Provides a Close-Up View of How Proteins Move Glucose from Blood to Cells

What to Know

Protein is found throughout the body, in nearly every body part. Proteins make sure each of the body’s 100 trillion cells does what it’s supposed to do. For example, proteins aid in the function of the immune system, which protects us against disease. One type of protein is called GLUT. Diabetes can develop if GLUTs don’t function properly. In this study, scientists wanted to learn more about the shape and function of one important bacterial GLUT protein, called XylE, in order to help develop drugs that target that protein’s specific function.

The Study

The researchers performed a series of complex experiments, simulations, and tests that allowed them to look very closely at the structure and function of the XylE protein.

The Results

The researchers identified a new inward-facing shape of the protein. Based on this discovery, they were able to explain in great detail how this protein attracts glucose as well as the triggers that allow it to change its shape and help move glucose through the protein into the cell for use as energy.


Research such as this, which focuses on the shape and function of proteins in the body, could pave the way for the development of new diabetes drugs. For example, by understanding how GLUT proteins work to move glucose into cells, scientists can develop drugs that speed up that process (to treat high blood glucose) or slow it down (to treat low blood glucose) in people with diabetes.

Proton-coupled sugar transport in the prototypical major facilitator superfamily protein XylE, by Wisedchaisri and colleagues. Nature Communications 2014;5:4521 http://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms5521

The information on this screen does not take the place of care from your doctor or other health care provider. If you have general questions about diabetes or diabetes-related research, e-mail askada@diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2382).



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