The central nervous system relies on a continual supply of glucose, and must be able to detect glucose levels and regulate peripheral organ functions to ensure that its energy requirements are met. Specialized glucose-sensing neurons, first described half a century ago, use glucose as a signal and modulate their firing rates as glucose levels change. Glucose-excited neurons are activated by increasing glucose concentrations, while glucose-inhibited neurons increase their firing rate as glucose concentrations fall and decrease their firing rate as glucose concentrations rise. Glucose-sensing neurons are present in multiple brain regions and are highly expressed in hypothalamic regions, where they are involved in functions related to glucose homeostasis. However, the roles of glucose-sensing neurons in healthy and disease states remain poorly understood. Technologies that can rapidly and reversibly activate or inhibit defined neural populations provide invaluable tools to investigate how specific neural populations regulate metabolism and other physiological roles. Optogenetics has high temporal and spatial resolutions, requires implants for neural stimulation, and is suitable for modulating local neural populations. Chemogenetics, which requires injection of a synthetic ligand, can target both local and widespread populations. Radio-and magnetogenetics offer rapid neural activation in localized or widespread neural populations without the need for implants or injections. These tools will allow us to better understand glucose-sensing neurons and their metabolism-regulating circuits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E327-E339
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Glucose
  • Magnetogenetics
  • Neuromodulation
  • Radiogenetics


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