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Diabetes. 2010 Aug;59(8):1890-8. doi: 10.2337/db10-0128. Epub 2010 Jun 3.

Leptin directly depolarizes preproglucagon neurons in the nucleus tractus solitarius: electrical properties of glucagon-like Peptide 1 neurons.

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Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London, London, UK.



Glucagon-like peptide (GLP)-1 inhibits food intake, acting both in the periphery and within the central nervous system. It is unclear if gut-derived GLP-1 can enter the brain, or whether GLP-1 from preproglucagon (PPG) cells in the lower brainstem is required to activate central GLP-1 receptors. Brainstem PPG neurons, however, have been poorly characterized, due to the difficulties in identifying these cells while viable. This study provides data on the electrical properties of brainstem PPG cells and their regulation by orexigenic and anorexigenic peptides.


Transgenic mice expressing Venus under control of the PPG promoter were used to identify PPG neurons in vitro in brainstem slice preparations for electrophysiological recordings. RESULTS The majority of PPG neurons were spontaneously active. Further electrical and molecular characterization revealed that GLP-1 receptor activation had no pre- or postsynaptic effect and that PPG neurons lack GLP-1 receptors. Similarly, they were unresponsive to PYY and ghrelin. In contrast, leptin rapidly and reversibly depolarized these neurons. Responses to electrical stimulation of the solitary tract suggest that PPG cells are mostly second-order neurons, receiving direct input from vagal afferent fibers. Both evoked and spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents were predominantly glutamatergic.


The study introduces PPG-promoter-Venus transgenic mice as a viable and important tool to study brainstem PPG cells. PPG neuron activity is directly modulated by leptin but was unaffected by other satiety or hunger peptides. Direct synaptic input from the solitary tract suggests that peripheral signals (including GLP-1) could modulate PPG cells via vagal afferents.

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