We tested the hypotheses that 1) hypoglycemia per se stimulates the sympathetic neural as well as the adrenomedullary component of the sympathochromaffin system, and 2) sympathetic neural responses to hypoglycemia, like adrenomedullary responses, are reduced after recent hypoglycemia. To this end, we studied 10 healthy young adults on 2 consecutive days on two separate occasions, on one occasion with euglycemia (5.0 mmol/l) and on the other occasion with hypoglycemia (2.8 mmol/l) from 1000 to 1200 and 1400 to 1600 on day 1 of each occasion. On day 2 of each occasion, plasma epinephrine and norepinephrine (NE) concentrations and rates of systemic NE spillover (SNESO) and forearm NE spillover (FNESO) were measured during hyperinsulinemic (12.0 pmol x kg(-1) x min(-1)) euglycemia (5.0 mmol/l) and hypoglycemia (2.8 mmol/l). Compared with values during euglycemia, plasma epinephrine and NE and rates of SNESO and FNESO all increased during hypoglycemia (P < 0.01). After day 1 hypoglycemia, there were reductions during hypoglycemia on day 2 in plasma epinephrine (2,050 +/- 500 vs. 2,960 +/- 400 pmol/l; P < 0.02), plasma NE (1.35 +/- 0.16 vs. 1.92 +/- 0.20 nmol/l; P < 0.01), and SNESO rates (5.13 +/- 0.84 vs. 6.87 +/- 0.81 nmol/min; P < 0.02). However, FNESO rates were unaltered (1.16 +/- 0.25 vs. 1.27 +/- 0.17 pmol x min(-1) x 100 ml tissue(-1). Thus we conclude that 1) hypoglycemia per se stimulates both the sympathetic neural and adrenomedullary components of the sympathochromaffin system and 2) adrenomedullary, but not forearm sympathetic neural, responses to hypoglycemia are reduced after recent hypoglycemia. The extent to which the lower plasma NE levels and reduced SNESO responses to hypoglycemia after day 1 hypoglycemia reflect reduced NE release from the adrenal medullae, sympathetic nerves other than those in the forearm, or both cannot be determined from these data.

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