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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Feb;288(2):E422-9. Epub 2004 Oct 19.

Effects of diabetes and recurrent hypoglycemia on the regulation of the sympathoadrenal system and hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, University of Toronto, Medical Sciences Bldg., Rm. 3358, 1 King's College Circle, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 1A8.


Epinephrine, norepinephrine, and corticosterone responses to hypoglycemia are impaired in diabetic rats. Recurrent hypoglycemia further diminishes epinephrine responses. This study examined the sympathoadrenal system and hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis for molecular adaptations underlying these defects. Groups were normal (N) and diabetic (D) rats and diabetic rats exposed to 4 days of 2 episodes/day of hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia (D-hypo) or hyperinsulinemic hyperglycemia (D-hyper). D-hypo and D-hyper rats differentiated effects of hypoglycemia and hyperinsulinemia. Adrenal tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) mRNA was reduced (P < 0.05 vs. N) 25% in all diabetic groups. Remarkably, mRNA for phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PNMT), which converts norepinephrine to epinephrine, was reduced (P < 0.05 vs. all) 40% only in D-hypo rats. Paradoxically, dopamine beta-hydroxylase mRNA was elevated (P < 0.05 vs. D, D-hyper) in D-hypo rats. Hippocampal mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) mRNA was increased (P < 0.05 vs. N) in all diabetic groups. Hippocampal glucocorticoid receptor (GR), hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) GR and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), and pituitary GR and proopiomelanocortin (POMC) mRNA levels did not differ. We conclude that blunted corticosterone responses to hypoglycemia in diabetic rats are not due to altered basal expression of GR, CRH, and POMC in the hippocampus, PVN, and pituitary. The corticosterone defect also does not appear to be due to increased hippocampal MR, since we have reported normalized corticosterone responses in D-hypo and D-hyper rats. Furthermore, impaired epinephrine counterregulation in diabetes is associated with reduced adrenal TH mRNA, whereas the additional epinephrine defect after recurrent hypoglycemia is associated with decreases in both TH and PNMT mRNA.

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