Hindbrain catecholamine neurons control multiple glucoregulatory responses

Physiol Behav. 2006 Nov 30;89(4):490-500. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.05.036. Epub 2006 Aug 1.


Reduced brain glucose availability evokes an integrated constellation of responses that protect and restore the brain's glucose supply. These include increased food intake, adrenal medullary secretion, corticosterone secretion and suppression of estrous cycles. Our research has focused on mechanisms and neural circuitry underlying these systemic glucoregulatory responses. Using microinjection techniques, we found that localized glucoprivation of hindbrain but not hypothalamic sites, elicited key glucoregulatory responses, indicating that glucoreceptor cells controlling these responses are located in the hindbrain. Selective destruction of hindbrain catecholamine neurons using the retrogradely transported immunotoxin, anti-dopamine beta-hydroxylase conjugated to saporin (DSAP), revealed that spinally-projecting epinephrine (E) or norepinephrine (NE) neurons are required for the adrenal medullary response to glucoprivation, while E/NE neurons with hypothalamic projections are required for feeding, corticosterone and reproductive responses. We also found that E/NE neurons are required for both consummatory and appetitive phases of glucoprivic feeding, suggesting that multilevel collateral projections of these neurons coordinate various components of the behavioral response. Epinephrine or NE neurons co-expressing neuropeptide Y (NPY) may be the neuronal phenotype required for glucoprivic feeding: they increase NPY mRNA expression in response to glucoprivation and are nearly eliminated by DSAP injections that abolish glucoprivic feeding. In contrast, lesion of arcuate nucleus NPY neurons, using the toxin, NPY-saporin, does not impair glucoprivic feeding or hyperglycemic responses. Thus, hindbrain E/NE neurons orchestrate multiple concurrent glucoregulatory responses. Specific catecholamine phenotypes may mediate the individual components of the overall response. Glucoreceptive control of these neurons resides within the hindbrain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology*
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / physiology
  • Eating / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Epinephrine / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Norepinephrine / physiology*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology
  • Rhombencephalon / cytology
  • Rhombencephalon / physiology*


  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • glucose receptor
  • Glucose
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine