Department of Cell Biology, Genetics and Physiology, University of Malaga, IBIMA, BIONAND, Andalusian Center for Nanomedicine and Biotechnology and Networking Research Center on Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine, Málaga, Spain. [Email]
The metabolic and energy state of the organism depends largely on the availability of substrates, such as glucose for ATP production, necessary for maintaining physiological functions. Deregulation in glucose levels leads to the appearance of pathological signs that result in failures in the cardiovascular system and various diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, nephropathy, and neuropathy. Particularly, the brain relies on glucose as fuel for the normal development of neuronal activity. Regions adjacent to the cerebral ventricles, such as the hypothalamus and brainstem, exercise central control in energy homeostasis. These centers house nuclei of neurons whose excitatory activity is sensitive to changes in glucose levels. Determining the different detection mechanisms, the phenotype of neurosecretion, and neural connections involving glucose-sensitive neurons is essential to understanding the response to hypoglycemia through modulation of food intake, thermogenesis, and activation of sympathetic and parasympathetic branches, inducing glucagon and epinephrine secretion and other hypothalamic-pituitary axis-dependent counterregulatory hormones, such as glucocorticoids and growth hormone. The aim of this review focuses on integrating the current understanding of various glucose-sensing mechanisms described in the brain, thereby establishing a relationship between neuroanatomy and control of physiological processes involved in both metabolic and energy balance. This will advance the understanding of increasingly prevalent diseases in the modern world, especially diabetes, and emphasize patterns that regulate and stimulate intake, thermogenesis, and the overall synergistic effect of the neuroendocrine system.