Hindbrain catecholaminergic (CA) neurons are required for critical autonomic, endocrine, and behavioral counterregulatory responses (CRRs) to hypoglycemia. Recent studies suggest that CRR initiation depends on hindbrain astrocyte glucose sensors (McDougal DH, Hermann GE, Rogers RC. Front Neurosci 7: 249, 2013; Rogers RC, Ritter S, Hermann GE. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 310: R1102-R1108, 2016). To test the proposition that hindbrain CA responses to glucoprivation are astrocyte dependent, we utilized transgenic mice in which the calcium reporter construct (GCaMP5) was expressed selectively in tyrosine hydroxylase neurons (TH-GCaMP5). We conducted live cell calcium-imaging studies on tissue slices containing the nucleus of the solitary tract (NST) or the ventrolateral medulla, critical CRR initiation sites. Results show that TH-GCaMP5 neurons are robustly activated by a glucoprivic challenge and that this response is dependent on functional astrocytes. Pretreatment of hindbrain slices with fluorocitrate (an astrocytic metabolic suppressor) abolished TH-GCaMP5 neuronal responses to glucoprivation, but not to glutamate. Pharmacologic results suggest that the astrocytic connection with hindbrain CA neurons is purinergic via P2 receptors. Parallel imaging studies on hindbrain slices of NST from wild-type C57BL/6J mice, in which astrocytes and neurons were prelabeled with a calcium reporter dye and an astrocytic vital dye, show that both cell types are activated by glucoprivation but astrocytes responded significantly sooner than neurons. Pretreatment of these hindbrain slices with P2 antagonists abolished neuronal responses to glucoprivation without interruption of astrocyte responses; pretreatment with fluorocitrate eliminated both astrocytic and neuronal responses. These results support earlier work suggesting that the primary detection of glucoprivic signals by the hindbrain is mediated by astrocytes.
Keywords: astrocyte; hindbrain; hypoglycemia.