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Dopamine in the nucleus accumbens shell controls systemic glucose metabolism via the lateral hypothalamus and hepatic vagal innervation in rodents.

BACKGROUND: Growing evidence demonstrates the role of the striatal dopamine system in the regulation of glucose metabolism. Treatment with dopamine antagonists is associated with insulin resistance and hyperglycemia, while dopamine agonists are used in treatment of diabetes mellitus type 2. The mechanism underlying striatal dopamine effects in glucose metabolism, however is not fully understood. Here, we provide mechanistic insights into the role of nucleus accumbens shell (sNAc) dopaminergic signaling in systemic glucose metabolism.

METHODS: Endogenous glucose production (EGP), blood glucose and mRNA expression in the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) in male Wistar rats were measured following infusion of vanoxerine (VNX, dopamine reuptake inhibitor) in the sNAc. Thereafter, we analyzed projections from sNAc Drd1-expressing neurons to LHA using D1-Cre male Long-Evans rats, Cre-dependent viral tracers and fluorescence immunohistochemistry. Brain slice electrophysiology in adult mice was used to study spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents of sNAc Drd1-expressing neurons following VNX application. Finally, we assessed whether GABAergic LHA activity and hepatic vagal innervation were required for the effect of sNAc-VNX on glucose metabolism by combining infusion of sNAc-VNX with LHA-bicuculline, performing vagal recordings and combining infusion of sNAc-VNX with hepatic vagal denervation.

RESULTS: VNX infusion in the sNAc strongly decreased endogenous glucose production, prevented glucose increases over time, reduced Slc17A6 and Hcrt mRNA in LHA, and increased vagal activity. Furthermore, sNAc Drd1-expressing neurons increased spontaneous firing following VNX application, and viral tracing of sNAc Drd1-expressing neurons revealed direct projections to LHA with on average 67 % of orexin cells directly targeted by sNAc Drd1-expressing neurons. Importantly, the sNAc-VNX-induced effect on glucose metabolism was dependent on GABAergic signaling in the LHA and on intact hepatic vagal innervation.

CONCLUSIONS: We show that sNAc dopaminergic signaling modulates hepatic glucose metabolism through GABAergic inputs to glutamatergic LHA cells and hepatic vagal innervation. This demonstrates that striatal control of glucose metabolism involves a dopaminergic sNAc-LHA-liver axis and provides a potential explanation for the effects of dopamine agonists and antagonists on glucose metabolism.

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