The Rate of Fall of Blood Glucose Determines The Necessity of Forebrain-Projecting Catecholaminergic Neurons for Male Rat Sympathoadrenal Responses

  1. Alan G. Watts
  1. The Center for NeuroMetabolic Interactions, The Integrated and Evolutionary Biology Graduate Program, & The Department of Biological Sciences, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2520
  1. Corresponding author: Alan G. Watts, E-mail: watts{at}


Different onset rates of insulin-induced hypoglycemia use distinct glucosensors to activate sympathoadrenal counterregulatory responses (CCRs). Glucosensory elements in the portal-mesenteric veins are dispensable with faster rates when brain elements predominate, but are essential for responses to the slower onset hypoglycemia that is common with insulin therapy. Whether a similar rate-associated divergence exists within more expansive brain networks is unknown. Hindbrain catecholamine neurons distribute glycemia-related information throughout the forebrain. We tested in male rats whether catecholaminergic neurons that project to the medial and ventromedial hypothalamus are required for sympathoadrenal CRRs to rapid- and slow-onset hypoglycemia, and whether these neurons are differentially engaged as onset rates change. Using a catecholamine-specific neurotoxin and hyperinsulinemic-hypoglycemic clamps we found that sympathoadrenal CRRs to slow- but not rapid-onset hypoglycemia require hypothalamus-projecting catecholaminergic neurons, the majority of which originate in the ventrolateral medulla. As determined with Fos, these neurons are differentially activated by the two onset rates. We conclude 1), catecholaminergic projections to the hypothalamus provide essential information for activating sympathoadrenal CRRs to slow- but not rapid-onset hypoglycemia; 2), hypoglycemia onset rates have a major impact on the hypothalamic mechanisms that enable sympathoadrenal CRRs; 3), hypoglycemia-related sensory information activates hindbrain catecholaminergic neurons in a rate-dependent manner.

  • Received November 15, 2013.
  • Accepted April 1, 2014.

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