The ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus: watchdog of whole-body glucose homeostasis

Cell Biosci. 2022 May 26;12(1):71. doi: 10.1186/s13578-022-00799-2.


The brain, particularly the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus (VMH), has been long known for its involvement in glucose sensing and whole-body glucose homeostasis. However, it is still not fully understood how the brain detects and responds to the changes in the circulating glucose levels, as well as brain-body coordinated control of glucose homeostasis. In this review, we address the growing evidence implicating the brain in glucose homeostasis, especially in the contexts of hypoglycemia and diabetes. In addition to neurons, we emphasize the potential roles played by non-neuronal cells, as well as extracellular matrix in the hypothalamus in whole-body glucose homeostasis. Further, we review the ionic mechanisms by which glucose-sensing neurons sense fluctuations of ambient glucose levels. We also introduce the significant implications of heterogeneous neurons in the VMH upon glucose sensing and whole-body glucose homeostasis, in which sex difference is also addressed. Meanwhile, research gaps have also been identified, which necessities further mechanistic studies in future.

Keywords: Counterregulatory response; Diabetes; Glucose sensing; Hypoglycemia; Sex difference; VMH; Whole-body glucose homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Review