Sensing of Glucose in the Brain

  • Bernard ThorensEmail author
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 209)


The brain, and in particular the hypothalamus and brainstem, have been recognized for decades as important centers for the homeostatic control of feeding, energy expenditure, and glucose homeostasis. These structures contain neurons and neuronal circuits that may be directly or indirectly activated or inhibited by glucose, lipids, or amino acids. The detection by neurons of these nutrient cues may become deregulated, and possibly cause metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Thus, there is a major interest in identifying these neurons, how they respond to nutrients, the neuronal circuits they form, and the physiological function they control. Here I will review some aspects of glucose sensing by the brain. The brain is responsive to both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, and the glucose sensing cells involved are distributed in several anatomical sites that are connected to each other. These eventually control the activity of the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the function of peripheral organs such as liver, white and brown fat, muscle, and pancreatic islets alpha and beta cells. There is now evidence for an extreme diversity in the sensing mechanisms used, and these will be reviewed.


Brainstem Counterregulation Food intake Glucogen Glucokinase Glucose transporters Glucose Sensing Hypothalamus 



Work in the author laboratory has been supported by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation No. 3100A0-113525 and by the National Competence Center in Research “Frontiers in Genetics.”


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Integrative GenomicsUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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