Increased GABAergic Output in the Ventromedial Hypothalamus Contributes to Impaired Hypoglycemic Counterregulation in Diabetic Rats

  1. Robert Sherwin1
  1. 1Section of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
  2. 2Department of Genetics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
  1. Corresponding author: Owen Chan, owen.chan{at}


OBJECTIVE Impaired glucose counterregulation during hypoglycemia is well documented in patients with type 1 diabetes; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying this defect remain uncertain. We reported that the inhibitory neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), in a crucial glucose-sensing region within the brain, the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH), plays an important role in modulating the magnitude of the glucagon and epinephrine responses to hypoglycemia and investigated whether VMH GABAergic tone is altered in diabetes and therefore might contribute to defective counterregulatory responses.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS We used immunoblots to measure GAD65 protein (a rate-limiting enzyme in GABA synthesis) and microdialysis to measure extracellular GABA levels in the VMH of two diabetic rat models, the diabetic BB rat and the streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rat, and compared them with nondiabetic controls.

RESULTS Both diabetic rat models exhibited an ~50% increase in GAD65 protein as well as a twofold increase in VMH GABA levels compared with controls under baseline conditions. Moreover, during hypoglycemia, VMH GABA levels did not change in the diabetic animals, whereas they significantly declined in nondiabetic animals. As expected, glucagon responses were absent and epinephrine responses were attenuated in diabetic rats compared with their nondiabetic control counterparts. The defective counterregulatory response in STZ-diabetic animals was restored to normal with either local blockade of GABAA receptors or knockdown of GAD65 in the VMH.

CONCLUSIONS These data suggest that increased VMH GABAergic inhibition is an important contributor to the absent glucagon response to hypoglycemia and the development of counterregulatory failure in type 1 diabetes.

  • Received November 15, 2010.
  • Accepted January 24, 2011.

Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered. See for details.

| Table of Contents

This Article

  1. Diabetes vol. 60 no. 5 1582-1589
  1. All Versions of this Article:
    1. db10-1579v1
    2. 60/5/1582 most recent