The ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) plays a complex role in glucose and energy homeostasis. The VMH is necessary for the counter-regulatory response to hypoglycaemia (CRR) that increases hepatic gluconeogenesis to restore euglycaemia. On the other hand, the VMH also restrains hepatic glucose production during euglycaemia and stimulates peripheral glucose uptake. The VMH is also important for the ability of oestrogen to increase energy expenditure. This latter function is mediated by VMH modulation of the lateral/perifornical hypothalamic area (lateral/perifornical hypothalamus) orexin neurones. Activation of VMH AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is necessary for the CRR. By contrast, VMH AMPK inhibition favours decreased basal glucose levels and is required for oestrogen to increase energy expenditure. Specialised VMH glucose-sensing neurones confer the ability to sense and respond to changes in blood glucose levels. Glucose-excited (GE) neurones increase and glucose-inhibited (GI) neurones decrease their activity as glucose levels rise. VMH GI neurones, in particular, appear to be important in the CRR, although a role for GE neurones cannot be discounted. AMPK mediates glucose sensing in VMH GI neurones suggesting that, although activation of these neurones is important for the CRR, it is necessary to silence them to lower basal glucose levels and enable oestrogen to increase energy expenditure. In support of this, we found that oestrogen reduces activation of VMH GI neurones in low glucose by inhibiting AMPK. In this review, we present the evidence underlying the role of the VMH in glucose and energy homeostasis. We then discuss the role of VMH glucose-sensing neurones in mediating these effects, with a strong emphasis on oestrogenic regulation of glucose sensing and how this may affect glucose and energy homeostasis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- AMP-activated protein kinase
- glucose-sensing neurones