Evidence for a Role of Proline and Hypothalamic Astrocytes in the Regulation of Glucose Metabolism in Rats

  1. Roger Gutiérrez-Juárez
  1. Department of Medicine and Diabetes Research Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York
  1. Corresponding author: Roger Gutiérrez-Juárez, roger.gutierrez{at}


The metabolism of lactate to pyruvate in the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH) regulates hepatic glucose production. Because astrocytes and neurons are functionally linked by metabolic coupling through lactate transfer via the astrocyte-neuron lactate shuttle (ANLS), we reasoned that astrocytes might be involved in the hypothalamic regulation of glucose metabolism. To examine this possibility, we used the gluconeogenic amino acid proline, which is metabolized to pyruvate in astrocytes. Our results showed that increasing the availability of proline in rats either centrally (MBH) or systemically acutely lowered blood glucose. Pancreatic clamp studies revealed that this hypoglycemic effect was due to a decrease of hepatic glucose production secondary to an inhibition of glycogenolysis, gluconeogenesis, and glucose-6-phosphatase flux. The effect of proline was mimicked by glutamate, an intermediary of proline metabolism. Interestingly, proline’s action was markedly blunted by pharmacological inhibition of hypothalamic lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) suggesting that metabolic flux through LDH was required. Furthermore, short hairpin RNA–mediated knockdown of hypothalamic LDH-A, an astrocytic component of the ANLS, also blunted the glucoregulatory action of proline. Thus our studies suggest not only a new role for proline in the regulation of hepatic glucose production but also indicate that hypothalamic astrocytes are involved in the regulatory mechanism as well.


  • This article contains Supplementary Data online at

  • I.A.-C. is currently affiliated with the Department of Basic Science Research, National Institute of Geriatrics, Mexico City, Mexico. T.K.T.L. is currently affiliated with the Departments of Physiology and Medicine, University Health Network and University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

  • Received February 22, 2012.
  • Accepted November 2, 2012.

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