Neuronal glucosensing: What do we know after 50 years?

Barry E. Levin, Vanessa H. Routh, Ling Kang, Nicole M. Sanders, Ambrose A. Dunn-Meynell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

332 Scopus citations


Glucosensing neurons are specialized cells that use glucose as a signaling molecule to alter their action potential frequency in response to variations in ambient glucose levels. Glucokinase (GK) appears to be the primary regulator of most neuronal glucosensing, but other regulators almost certainly exist. Glucose-excited neurons increase their activity when glucose levels rise, and most use GK and an ATP-sensitive K+ channel as the ultimate effector of glucose-induced signaling. Glucose-inhibited (GI) neurons increase their activity at low glucose levels. Although many use GK, it is unclear what the final pathway of GI neuronal glucosensing is. Glucosensing neurons are located in brain sites and respond to and integrate a variety of hormonal, metabolic, transmitter, and peptide signals involved in the regulation of energy homeostasis and other biological functions. Although it is still uncertain whether daily fluctuations in blood glucose play a specific regulatory role in these physiological functions, it is clear that large decreases in glucose availability stimulate food intake and counterregulatory responses that restore glucose levels to sustain cerebral function. Finally, glucosensing is altered in obesity and after recurrent bouts of hypoglycemia, and this altered sensing may contribute to the adverse outcomes of these conditions. Thus, although much is known, much remains to be learned about the physiological function of brain glucosensing neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2521-2528
Number of pages8
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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