It has recently been proposed that hypothalamic glial cells sense glucose levels and release lactate as a signal to activate adjacent neurons. GK (glucokinase), the hexokinase involved in glucose sensing in pancreatic β-cells, is also expressed in the hypothalamus. However, it has not been clearly determined if glial and/or neuronal cells express this protein. Interestingly, tanycytes, the glia that cover the ventricular walls of the hypothalamus, are in contact with CSF (cerebrospinal fluid), the capillaries of the arcuate nucleus and adjacent neurons; this would be expected for a system that can detect and communicate changes in glucose concentration. Here, we demonstrated by Western-blot analysis, QRT-PCR [quantitative RT-PCR (reverse transcrip-tion-PCR)] and in situ hybridization that GK is expressed in tanycytes. Confocal microscopy and immunoultrastructural analysis revealed that GK is localized in the nucleus and cytoplasm of β1-tanycytes. Furthermore, GK expression increased in these cells during the second week of post-natal development. Based on this evidence, we propose that tanycytes mediate, at least in part, the mechanism by which the hypothalamus detects changes in glucose concentrations.
- Arcuate nucleus