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J Clin Invest. 2016 Sep 1;126(9):3467-78. doi: 10.1172/JCI86270. Epub 2016 Aug 22.

β1-Adrenergic receptor deficiency in ghrelin-expressing cells causes hypoglycemia in susceptible individuals.


Ghrelin is an orexigenic gastric peptide hormone secreted when caloric intake is limited. Ghrelin also regulates blood glucose, as emphasized by the hypoglycemia that is induced by caloric restriction in mouse models of deficient ghrelin signaling. Here, we hypothesized that activation of β1-adrenergic receptors (β1ARs) localized to ghrelin cells is required for caloric restriction-associated ghrelin release and the ensuing protective glucoregulatory response. In mice lacking the β1AR specifically in ghrelin-expressing cells, ghrelin secretion was markedly blunted, resulting in profound hypoglycemia and prevalent mortality upon severe caloric restriction. Replacement of ghrelin blocked the effects of caloric restriction in β1AR-deficient mice. We also determined that treating calorically restricted juvenile WT mice with beta blockers led to reduced plasma ghrelin and hypoglycemia, the latter of which is similar to the life-threatening, fasting-induced hypoglycemia observed in infants treated with beta blockers. These findings highlight the critical functions of ghrelin in preventing hypoglycemia and promoting survival during severe caloric restriction and the requirement for ghrelin cell-expressed β1ARs in these processes. Moreover, these results indicate a potential role for ghrelin in mediating beta blocker-associated hypoglycemia in susceptible individuals, such as young children.

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