Naloxone, but Not Valsartan, Preserves Responses to Hypoglycemia After Antecedent Hypoglycemia

Role of Metabolic Reprogramming in Counterregulatory Failure

  1. Charles V. Mobbs1
  1. 1Fishberg Center for Neurobiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York;
  2. 2Department of Internal Medicine, The Anlyan Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.
  1. Corresponding author: Charles V. Mobbs, charles.mobbs{at}


OBJECTIVE Hypoglycemia-associated autonomic failure (HAAF) constitutes one of the main clinical obstacles to optimum treatment of type 1 diabetes. Neurons in the ventromedial hypothalamus are thought to mediate counterregulatory responses to hypoglycemia. We have previously hypothesized that hypoglycemia-induced hypothalamic angiotensin might contribute to HAAF, suggesting that the angiotensin blocker valsartan might prevent HAAF. On the other hand, clinical studies have demonstrated that the opioid receptor blocker naloxone ameliorates HAAF. The goal of this study was to generate novel hypothalamic markers of hypoglycemia and use them to assess mechanisms mediating HAAF and its reversal.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Quantitative PCR was used to validate a novel panel of hypothalamic genes regulated by hypoglycemia. Mice were exposed to one or five episodes of insulin-induced hypoglycemia, with or without concurrent exposure to valsartan or naloxone. Corticosterone, glucagon, epinephrine, and hypothalamic gene expression were assessed after the final episode of hypoglycemia.

RESULTS A subset of hypothalamic genes regulated acutely by hypoglycemia failed to respond after repetitive hypoglycemia. Responsiveness of a subset of these genes was preserved by naloxone but not valsartan. Notably, hypothalamic expression of four genes, including pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 and glycerol 3-phosphate dehydrogenase 1, was acutely induced by a single episode of hypoglycemia, but not after antecedent hypoglycemia; naloxone treatment prevented this failure. Similarly, carnitine palmitoyltransferase-1 was inhibited after repetitive hypoglycemia, and this inhibition was prevented by naloxone. Repetitive hypoglycemia also caused a loss of hypoglycemia-induced elevation of glucocorticoid secretion, a failure prevented by naloxone but not valsartan.

CONCLUSIONS Based on these observations we speculate that acute hypoglycemia induces reprogramming of hypothalamic metabolism away from glycolysis toward β-oxidation, HAAF is associated with a reversal of this reprogramming, and naloxone preserves some responses to hypoglycemia by preventing this reversal.


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  • See accompanying commentary, p. 24.

  • Received March 4, 2010.
  • Accepted August 26, 2010.

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