Estrogen receptor-α expressing neurons in the ventrolateral VMH regulate glucose balance

Nat Commun. 2020 May 1;11(1):2165. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-15982-7.


Brain glucose-sensing neurons detect glucose fluctuations and prevent severe hypoglycemia, but mechanisms mediating functions of these glucose-sensing neurons are unclear. Here we report that estrogen receptor-α (ERα)-expressing neurons in the ventrolateral subdivision of the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus (vlVMH) can sense glucose fluctuations, being glucose-inhibited neurons (GI-ERαvlVMH) or glucose-excited neurons (GE-ERαvlVMH). Hypoglycemia activates GI-ERαvlVMH neurons via the anoctamin 4 channel, and inhibits GE-ERαvlVMH neurons through opening the ATP-sensitive potassium channel. Further, we show that GI-ERαvlVMH neurons preferentially project to the medioposterior arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (mpARH) and GE-ERαvlVMH neurons preferentially project to the dorsal Raphe nuclei (DRN). Activation of ERαvlVMH to mpARH circuit and inhibition of ERαvlVMH to DRN circuit both increase blood glucose. Thus, our results indicate that ERαvlVMH neurons detect glucose fluctuations and prevent severe hypoglycemia in mice.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electrophysiology
  • Endocrinology
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Glucose