Williams, Long (2019) What has zinc transporter 8 autoimmunity taught us about type 1 diabetes? Diabetologia 62(11) 1969-1976
Zinc transporter 8 (ZnT8), a protein highly specific to pancreatic insulin-producing beta cells, is vital for the biosynthesis and secretion of insulin. ZnT8 autoantibodies (ZnT8A) are among the most recently discovered and least-characterised islet autoantibodies. In combination with autoantibodies to several other islet antigens, including insulin, ZnT8A help predict risk of future type 1 diabetes. Often, ZnT8A appear later in the pathogenic process leading to type 1 diabetes, suggesting that the antigen is recognised as part of the spreading, rather than the initial, autoimmune response. The development of autoantibodies to different forms of ZnT8 depends on the genotype of an individual for a polymorphic ZnT8 residue. This genetic variant is associated with susceptibility to type 2 but not type 1 diabetes. Levels of ZnT8A often fall rapidly after diagnosis while other islet autoantibodies can persist for many years. In this review, we consider the contribution made by ZnT8 to our understanding of type 1 diabetes over the past decade and what remains to be investigated in future research.