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      A Major Role for Perifornical Orexin Neurons in the Control of Glucose Metabolism in Rats

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          The hypothalamic neuropeptide orexin influences (feeding) behavior as well as energy metabolism. Administration of exogenous orexin-A into the brain has been shown to increase both food intake and blood glucose levels. In the present study, we investigated the role of endogenous hypothalamic orexin release in glucose homeostasis in rats.


          We investigated the effects of the hypothalamic orexin system on basal endogenous glucose production (EGP) as well as on hepatic and peripheral insulin sensitivity by changing orexinergic activity in the hypothalamus combined with hepatic sympathetic or parasympathetic denervation, two-step hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamps, immunohistochemistry, and RT-PCR studies.


          Hypothalamic disinhibition of neuronal activity by the γ-aminobutyric acid receptor antagonist bicuculline (BIC) increased basal EGP, especially when BIC was administered in the perifornical area where orexin-containing neurons but not melanocortin-concentrating hormone–containing neurons were activated. The increased BIC-induced EGP was largely prevented by intracerebroventricular pretreatment with the orexin-1 receptor antagonist. Intracerebroventricular administration of orexin-A itself caused an increase in plasma glucose and prevented the daytime decrease of EGP. The stimulatory effect of intracerebroventricular orexin-A on EGP was prevented by hepatic sympathetic denervation. Plasma insulin clamped at two or six times the basal levels did not counteract the stimulatory effect of perifornical BIC on EGP, indicating hepatic insulin resistance. RT-PCR showed that stimulation of orexin neurons increased the expression of hepatic glucoregulatory enzymes.


          Hypothalamic orexin plays an important role in EGP, most likely by changing the hypothalamic output to the autonomic nervous system. Disturbance of this pathway may result in unbalanced glucose homeostasis.

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          Most cited references 48

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          Orexins and orexin receptors: a family of hypothalamic neuropeptides and G protein-coupled receptors that regulate feeding behavior.

          The hypothalamus plays a central role in the integrated control of feeding and energy homeostasis. We have identified two novel neuropeptides, both derived from the same precursor by proteolytic processing, that bind and activate two closely related (previously) orphan G protein-coupled receptors. These peptides, termed orexin-A and -B, have no significant structural similarities to known families of regulatory peptides. prepro-orexin mRNA and immunoreactive orexin-A are localized in neurons within and around the lateral and posterior hypothalamus in the adult rat brain. When administered centrally to rats, these peptides stimulate food consumption. prepro-orexin mRNA level is up-regulated upon fasting, suggesting a physiological role for the peptides as mediators in the central feedback mechanism that regulates feeding behavior.
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            Genetic ablation of orexin neurons in mice results in narcolepsy, hypophagia, and obesity.

            Orexins (hypocretins) are a pair of neuropeptides implicated in energy homeostasis and arousal. Recent reports suggest that loss of orexin-containing neurons occurs in human patients with narcolepsy. We generated transgenic mice in which orexin-containing neurons are ablated by orexinergic-specific expression of a truncated Machado-Joseph disease gene product (ataxin-3) with an expanded polyglutamine stretch. These mice showed a phenotype strikingly similar to human narcolepsy, including behavioral arrests, premature entry into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, poorly consolidated sleep patterns, and a late-onset obesity, despite eating less than nontransgenic littermates. These results provide evidence that orexin-containing neurons play important roles in regulating vigilance states and energy homeostasis. Orexin/ataxin-3 mice provide a valuable model for studying the pathophysiology and treatment of narcolepsy.
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              Insulin action in AgRP-expressing neurons is required for suppression of hepatic glucose production.

              Insulin action in the central nervous system regulates energy homeostasis and glucose metabolism. To define the insulin-responsive neurons that mediate these effects, we generated mice with selective inactivation of the insulin receptor (IR) in either pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC)- or agouti-related peptide (AgRP)-expressing neurons of the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus. While neither POMC- nor AgRP-restricted IR knockout mice exhibited altered energy homeostasis, insulin failed to normally suppress hepatic glucose production during euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic clamps in AgRP-IR knockout (IR(DeltaAgRP)) mice. These mice also exhibited reduced insulin-stimulated hepatic interleukin-6 expression and increased hepatic expression of glucose-6-phosphatase. These results directly demonstrate that insulin action in POMC and AgRP cells is not required for steady-state regulation of food intake and body weight. However, insulin action specifically in AgRP-expressing neurons does play a critical role in controlling hepatic glucose production and may provide a target for the treatment of insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes.

                Author and article information

                American Diabetes Association
                September 2009
                10 July 2009
                : 58
                : 9
                : 1998-2005
                1Department of Hypothalamic Integration Mechanisms, Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Amsterdam, the Netherlands;
                2Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands;
                3Department of Clinical Chemistry, Laboratory of Endocrinology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands;
                4Instituto de Investigaciones Biomedicas Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico City, Mexico.
                Author notes
                Corresponding author: Chun-Xia Yi, c.yi@ .
                © 2009 by the American Diabetes Association.

                Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered. See for details.

                Original Article

                Endocrinology & Diabetes


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