Tanycytes are elongated hypothalamic glial cells that cover the basal walls of the third ventricle; their apical regions contact the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and their processes reach hypothalamic neuronal nuclei that control the energy status of an organism. These nuclei maintain the balance between energy expenditure and intake, integrating several peripheral signals and triggering cellular responses that modify the feeding behaviour and peripheral glucose homeostasis. One of the most important and well-studied signals that control this process is glucose; however, the mechanism by which this molecule is sensed remains unknown. We along with others have proposed that tanycytes play a key role in this process, transducing changes in CSF glucose concentration to the neurons that control energy status. Recent studies have demonstrated the expression and function of monocarboxylate transporters and canonical pancreatic β cell glucose sensing molecules, including glucose transporter 2 and glucokinase, in tanycytes. These and other data, which will be discussed in this review, suggest that hypothalamic glucosensing is mediated through a metabolic interaction between tanycytes and neurons through lactate. This article will summarize the recent evidence that supports the importance of tanycytes in hypothalamic glucosensing, and discuss the possible mechanisms involved in this process. Finally, it is important to highlight that a detailed analysis of this mechanism could represent an opportunity to understand the evolution of associated pathologies, including diabetes and obesity, and identify new candidates for therapeutic intervention.
Keywords: feeding behaviour; glucokinase; glucose transporters; glucosensing; hypothalamus; lactate; monocarboxylate transporters; tanycytes.
© 2015 The Authors. Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd and Foundation for Cellular and Molecular Medicine.