Glucose transporters play an essential role in the acquisition of glucose by the brain. Elevated expression of glucose transporter-1 has been detected in endothelial cells of the blood-brain barrier and in choroid plexus cells of the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier. On the other hand, there is a paucity of information on the expression of glucose transporters in the ependymal cells that line the walls of the cerebral ventricles. The tanycytes are specialized ependymal cells localized in circumventricular organs such as the median eminence that can be segregated into at least three types, alpha, beta1 and beta2. The beta2 tanycytes form tight junctions and participate in the formation of the cerebrospinal fluid-median eminence barrier. Using immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization, we analyzed the expression of hexose transporters in rat and mouse hypothalamic tanycytes. In both species, immunocytochemical analysis revealed elevated expression of glucose transporter-1 in alpha and beta1 tanycytes. Intense anti-glucose transporter-1 staining was observed in cell processes located throughout the arcuate nucleus, in the end-feet reaching the lateral sulcus of the infundibular region, and in cell processes contacting the hypothalamic capillaries. On the other hand, there was very low expression of glucose transporter-1 in beta2 tanycytes involved in barrier function. In contrast with the results of the cytochemical analysis, in situ hybridization revealed that tanycytes alpha, beta1, and beta2 express similar levels of glucose transporter-1 mRNA. Further analysis using anti-glial fibrillary acidic protein antibodies to identify areas rich in astrocytes revealed that astrocytes were absent from areas containing alpha and beta1 tanycytes, but were abundant in regions containing the barrier-forming beta2 tanycytes. Overall, our data reveal a lack of correlation between participation in barrier function and expression of glucose transporter-1 in hypothalamic tanycytes. Given the virtual absence of astrocytes in areas rich in alpha and beta1 tanycytes, we speculate whether the tanycytes might have astrocyte-like functions and participate in the metabolic coupling between glia and neurons in the hypothalamic area.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.