Physiological functions of glucose-inhibited neurones
Glucose-inhibited neurones are an integral part of neurocircuits regulating cognitive arousal, body weight and vital adaptive behaviours. Their firing is directly suppressed by extracellular glucose through poorly understood signalling cascades culminating in opening of post-synaptic K+ or possibly Cl− channels. In mammalian brains, two groups of glucose-inhibited neurones are best understood at present: neurones of the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARC) that express peptide transmitters NPY and agouti-related peptide (AgRP) and neurones of the lateral hypothalamus (LH) that express peptide transmitters orexins/hypocretins. The activity of ARC NPY/AgRP neurones promotes food intake and suppresses energy expenditure, and their destruction causes a severe reduction in food intake and body weight. The physiological actions of ARC NPY/AgRP cells are mediated by projections to numerous hypothalamic areas, as well as extrahypothalamic sites such as the thalamus and ventral tegmental area. Orexin/hypocretin neurones of the LH are critical for normal wakefulness, energy expenditure and reward-seeking, and their destruction causes narcolepsy. Orexin actions are mediated by highly widespread central projections to virtually all brain areas except the cerebellum, including monosynaptic innervation of the cerebral cortex and autonomic pre-ganglionic neurones. There, orexins act on two specific G-protein-coupled receptors generally linked to neuronal excitation. In addition to sensing physiological changes in sugar levels, the firing of both NPY/AgRP and orexin neurones is inhibited by the ‘satiety’ hormone leptin and stimulated by the ‘hunger’ hormone ghrelin. Glucose-inhibited neurones are thus well placed to coordinate diverse brain states and behaviours based on energy levels.