Hypoglycemia: Role of hypothalamic glucose-inhibited (GI) neurons in detection and correction

Chunxue Zhou, Suraj B. Teegala, Bilal A. Khan, Christina Gonzalez, Vanessa H. Routh

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Hypoglycemia is a profound threat to the brain since glucose is its primary fuel. As a result, glucose sensors are widely located in the central nervous system and periphery. In this perspective we will focus on the role of hypothalamic glucose-inhibited (GI) neurons in sensing and correcting hypoglycemia. In particular, we will discuss GI neurons in the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) which express neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) and in the perifornical hypothalamus (PFH) which express orexin. The ability of VMH nNOS-GI neurons to depolarize in low glucose closely parallels the hormonal response to hypoglycemia which stimulates gluconeogenesis. We have found that nitric oxide (NO) production in low glucose is dependent on oxidative status. In this perspective we will discuss the potential relevance of our work showing that enhancing the glutathione antioxidant system prevents hypoglycemia associated autonomic failure (HAAF) in non-diabetic rats whereas VMH overexpression of the thioredoxin antioxidant system restores hypoglycemia counterregulation in rats with type 1 diabetes.We will also address the potential role of the orexin-GI neurons in the arousal response needed for hypoglycemia awareness which leads to behavioral correction (e.g., food intake, glucose administration). The potential relationship between the hypothalamic sensors and the neurocircuitry in the hindbrain and portal mesenteric vein which is critical for hypoglycemia correction will then be discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number192
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Issue numberMAR
Publication statusPublished - Mar 9 2018


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Hypoglycemia associated autonomic failure
  • Hypoglycemia unawareness
  • Neuronal nitric oxide synthase
  • Orexin
  • Oxidative stress
  • Perifornical hypothalamus
  • Ventromedial hypothalamus

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