A ventrolateral medulla-midline thalamic circuit for hypoglycemic feeding

B. Sofia Beas, Xinglong Gu, Yan Leng, Omar Koita, Shakira Rodriguez-Gonzalez, Morgan Kindel, Bridget A. Matikainen-Ankney, Rylan S. Larsen, Alexxai V. Kravitz, Mark A. Hoon, Mario A. Penzo

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22 Scopus citations


Marked deficits in glucose availability, or glucoprivation, elicit organism-wide counter-regulatory responses whose purpose is to restore glucose homeostasis. However, while catecholamine neurons of the ventrolateral medulla (VLMCA) are thought to orchestrate these responses, the circuit and cellular mechanisms underlying specific counter-regulatory responses are largely unknown. Here, we combined anatomical, imaging, optogenetic and behavioral approaches to interrogate the circuit mechanisms by which VLMCA neurons orchestrate glucoprivation-induced food seeking behavior. Using these approaches, we found that VLMCA neurons form functional connections with nucleus accumbens (NAc)-projecting neurons of the posterior portion of the paraventricular nucleus of the thalamus (pPVT). Importantly, optogenetic manipulations revealed that while activation of VLMCA projections to the pPVT was sufficient to elicit robust feeding behavior in well fed mice, inhibition of VLMCA–pPVT communication significantly impaired glucoprivation-induced feeding while leaving other major counterregulatory responses intact. Collectively our findings identify the VLMCA–pPVT–NAc pathway as a previously-neglected node selectively controlling glucoprivation-induced food seeking. Moreover, by identifying the ventrolateral medulla as a direct source of metabolic information to the midline thalamus, our results support a growing body of literature on the role of the PVT in homeostatic regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6218
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


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