Direct regulation of the proglucagon gene by insulin, leptin, and cAMP in embryonic versus adult hypothalamic neurons

Mol Endocrinol. 2012 Aug;26(8):1339-55. doi: 10.1210/me.2012-1049. Epub 2012 Jun 5.


The proglucagon gene is expressed not only in the pancreas and intestine but also in the hypothalamus. Proglucagon-derived peptides have emerged as potential regulators of energy homeostasis. Whether leptin, insulin, or cAMP activation controls proglucagon gene expression in the hypothalamus is not known. A key reason for this has been the inaccessibility of hypothalamic proglucagon-expressing neurons and the lack of suitable neuronal cell lines. Herein we describe the mechanisms involved in the direct regulation of the proglucagon gene by insulin, leptin, and cAMP in hypothalamic cell models. Insulin, through an Akt-dependent manner, significantly induced proglucagon mRNA expression by 70% in adult-derived mHypoA-2/10 neurons and significantly suppressed it by 45% in embryonic-derived mHypoE-39 neurons. Leptin, via the Janus kinase-2/ signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 pathway, caused an initial increase by 66 and 43% at 1 h followed by a decrease by 45 and 34% at 12 h in mHypoA-2/10 and mHypoE-39 cells, respectively. Furthermore, cAMP activation by forskolin up-regulated proglucagon expression by 87% in mHypoE-39 neurons and increased proglucagon mRNA, through Epac activation, in the mHypoE-20/2 neurons. Specific regions of the proglucagon promoter were regulated by cAMP signaling, as determined by transient transfections, whereas mRNA stability assays demonstrate that insulin and leptin increase proglucagon mRNA stability in the adult cells. These findings suggest that insulin, leptin, and cAMP act directly, but differentially, on specific hypothalamic neurons to regulate proglucagon gene expression. Because proglucagon-derived peptides are potential regulators of energy homeostasis, an understanding of hypothalamic proglucagon neurons is important to further expand our knowledge of alternative feeding circuits.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Androstadienes / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromones / pharmacology
  • Cyclic AMP / pharmacology
  • Cyclic AMP / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / cytology*
  • Insulin / pharmacology
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Janus Kinase 2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Janus Kinase 2 / metabolism
  • Leptin / pharmacology
  • Leptin / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Morpholines / pharmacology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Proglucagon / genetics*
  • Proglucagon / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • RNA Stability
  • Rats
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transcriptome
  • Triterpenes / pharmacology
  • Wortmannin


  • Androstadienes
  • Chromones
  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • Morpholines
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • Stat3 protein, mouse
  • Triterpenes
  • 2-(4-morpholinyl)-8-phenyl-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one
  • Proglucagon
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Jak2 protein, mouse
  • Janus Kinase 2
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • cucurbitacin I
  • Wortmannin