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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2005 Jul;289(1):R235-46. Epub 2005 Mar 17.

Hyperglycemia does not increase basal hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal activity in diabetes but it does impair the HPA response to insulin-induced hypoglycemia.

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


Recently, we established that hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and counterregulatory responses to insulin-induced hypoglycemia were impaired in uncontrolled streptozotocin (STZ)-diabetic (65 mg/kg) rats and insulin treatment restored most of these responses. In the current study, we used phloridzin to determine whether the restoration of blood glucose alone was sufficient to normalize HPA function in diabetes. Normal, diabetic, insulin-treated, and phloridzin-treated diabetic rats were either killed after 8 days or subjected to a hypoglycemic (40 mg/dl) glucose clamp. Basal: Elevated basal ACTH and corticosterone in STZ rats were normalized with insulin but not phloridzin. Increases in hypothalamic corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) and inhibitory hippocampal mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) mRNA with STZ diabetes were not restored with either insulin or phloridzin treatments. Hypoglycemia: In response to hypoglycemia, rises in plasma ACTH and corticosterone were significantly lower in diabetic rats compared with controls. Insulin and phloridzin restored both ACTH and corticosterone responses in diabetic animals. Hypothalamic CRH mRNA and pituitary pro-opiomelanocortin mRNA expression increased following 2 h of hypoglycemia in normal, insulin-treated, and phloridzin-treated diabetic rats but not in untreated diabetic rats. Arginine vasopressin mRNA was unaltered by hypoglycemia in all groups. Interestingly, hypoglycemia decreased hippocampal MR mRNA in control, insulin-, and phloridzin-treated diabetic rats but not uncontrolled diabetic rats, whereas glucocorticoid receptor mRNA was not altered by hypoglycemia. In conclusion, despite elevated basal HPA activity, HPA responses to hypoglycemia were markedly reduced in uncontrolled diabetes. We speculate that defects in the CRH response may be related to a defective MR response. It is intriguing that phloridzin did not restore basal HPA activity but it restored the HPA response to hypoglycemia, suggesting that defects in basal HPA function in diabetes are due to insulin deficiency, but impaired responsiveness to hypoglycemia appears to stem from chronic hyperglycemia.

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