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Diabetologia. 2013 Nov;56(11):2517-23. doi: 10.1007/s00125-013-3009-7. Epub 2013 Aug 10.

β2-Adrenergic receptor agonist administration promotes counter-regulatory responses and recovery from hypoglycaemia in rats.

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Section of Endocrinology, Yale University School of Medicine, 300 Cedar St, TAC S141, New Haven, CT, 06520, USA.



We have previously reported that local activation of β2-adrenergic receptors (B2ARs) in the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) enhances hypoglycaemic counter-regulation. This study examines whether peripheral delivery of a selective B2AR agonist could also promote counter-regulatory responses and thereby has potential therapeutic value to limit hypoglycaemia risk.


Conscious male Sprague-Dawley rats received an intra-arterial injection of the B2AR specific agonist, formoterol, or a control solution either before a hyperinsulinaemic-hypoglycaemic clamp study or immediately before recovery from insulin-induced hypoglycaemia. In addition, the capacity of a VMH-targeted microinjection of a B2AR antagonist to limit the anti-insulin effect of the B2AR agonist was assessed.


Systemic delivery of B2AR agonist markedly reduced the exogenous glucose infusion rate (GIR) required during the hypoglycaemic clamp study. This effect was mediated by blockade of insulin's inhibitory effect on endogenous glucose production. Local blockade of B2ARs within the VMH using a specific antagonist partially diminished the effect of systemic activation of B2ARs during hypoglycaemia at least in part by diminishing the adrenaline (epinephrine) response to hypoglycaemia. Peripheral B2AR agonist injection also enhanced glucose recovery from insulin-induced hypoglycaemia.


Systemic B2AR agonist administration acts to limit insulin-induced hypoglycaemia by offsetting insulin's inhibitory effect on hepatic glucose production. This effect appears to be predominately mediated via a direct effect on liver B2ARs, but a small stimulatory effect on B2ARs within the VMH cannot be excluded. Our data suggest that formoterol may have therapeutic value to limit the risk of hypoglycaemia in patients with diabetes.

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