Hypothalamic Irak4 is a genetically controlled regulator of hypoglycemia-induced glucagon secretion

Alexandre Picard, Xavier Berney, Judit Castillo-Armengol, David Tarussio, ... Bernard Thorens


Glucagon secretion to stimulate hepatic glucose production is the first line of defense against hypoglycemia. This response is triggered by so far incompletely characterized central hypoglycemia-sensing mechanisms, which control autonomous nervous activity and hormone secretion. The objective of this study was to identify novel hypothalamic genes controlling insulin-induced glucagon secretion.


To obtain new information on the mechanisms of hypothalamic hypoglycemia sensing, we combined genetic and transcriptomic analysis of glucagon response to insulin-induced hypoglycemia in a panel of BXD recombinant inbred mice.


We identified two QTLs on chromosome 8 and chromosome 15. We further investigated the role of Irak4 and Cpne8, both located in the QTL on chromosome 15, in C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice, the BXD mouse parental strains. We found that the poor glucagon response of DBA/2J mice was associated with higher hypothalamic expression of Irak4, which encodes a kinase acting downstream of the interleukin-1 receptor (Il-1R), and of Il-ß when compared with C57BL/6J mice. We showed that intracerebroventricular administration of an Il-1R antagonist in DBA/2J mice restored insulin-induced glucagon secretion; this was associated with increased c-fos expression in the arcuate and paraventricular nuclei of the hypothalamus and with higher activation of both branches of the autonomous nervous system. Whole body inactivation of Cpne8, which encodes a Ca++-dependent regulator of membrane trafficking and exocytosis, however, had no impact on insulin-induced glucagon secretion.


Collectively, our data identify Irak4 as a genetically controlled regulator of hypoglycemia-activated hypothalamic neurons and glucagon secretion.