Hypothalamic Glucose Transport in Humans During Experimentally Induced Hypoglycemia-Associated Autonomic Failure

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Sep 1;102(9):3571-3580. doi: 10.1210/jc.2017-00477.


Context: Upregulated brain glucose transport in response to recurrent hypoglycemia may contribute to the development of hypoglycemia-associated autonomic failure (HAAF) and impaired awareness of hypoglycemia. Whether recurrent hypoglycemia alters glucose transport in the hypothalamus is unknown.

Objective: To test the hypothesis that hypothalamic glucose transport will increase in healthy volunteers preconditioned with recurrent hypoglycemia to induce HAAF.

Setting: University medical center.

Design and participants: Thirteen healthy subjects underwent paired euglycemic and hypoglycemic preconditioning studies separated by at least 1 month. Following preconditioning, hypothalamic glucose transport was measured by magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) in the afternoon on day 2 of each preconditioning protocol.

Outcome measure: The ratio of maximal transport rate to cerebral metabolic rate of glucose (Tmax/CMRglc), obtained from MRS-measured glucose in the hypothalamus as a function of plasma glucose.

Results: HAAF was successfully induced based on lower epinephrine, glucagon, and cortisol during the third vs first hypoglycemic preconditioning clamp (P ≤ 0.01). Hypothalamic glucose transport was not different following recurrent euglycemia vs hypoglycemia (Tmax/CMRglc 1.62 ± 0.09 after euglycemia preconditioning and 1.75 ± 0.14 after hypoglycemia preconditioning; P was not significant). Hypothalamic glucose concentrations measured by MRS were not different following the two preconditioning protocols.

Conclusions: Glucose transport kinetics in the hypothalamus of healthy humans with experimentally induced HAAF were not different from those measured without HAAF. Future studies of patients with diabetes and impaired awareness of hypoglycemia will be necessary to determine if the existence of the diabetes state is required for this adaptation to hypoglycemia to occur.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00786825.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases / blood
  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / blood*
  • Hypoglycemia / physiopathology
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Insulin / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Pure Autonomic Failure / blood*
  • Pure Autonomic Failure / physiopathology
  • Reference Values
  • Sampling Studies
  • Spectrum Analysis
  • Young Adult


  • Insulin
  • Glucose

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00786825