We sought to elucidate the role of the portal vein afferents in the sympathetic response to hypoglycemia. Laparotomy was performed on 27 male Wistar rats. Portal veins were painted with either 90% phenol (denervation group [PDN]) or 0.9% saline solution (sham-operated group [SHAM]). Rats were chronically cannulated in the carotid artery (sampling), jugular vein (infusion), and portal vein (infusion). After a recovery period of 5 days, animals were exposed to a hyperinsulinemic-hypoglycemic clamp, with glucose infused either portally (POR) or peripherally (PER). In all animals, systemic hypoglycemia (2.48+/-0.09 mmol/l) was induced via jugular vein insulin infusion (50 mU x kg(-1) x min(-1)). Arterial plasma catecholamines were assessed at basal (-30 and 0 min) and during sustained hypoglycemia (60, 75, 90, and 105 min). By design, portal vein glucose concentrations were significantly elevated during POR versus PER (4.4+/-0.14 vs. 2.5+/-0.07 mmol/l; P<0.01, respectively) for both PDN and SHAM. There were no significant differences in arterial glucose or insulin concentration between the four experimental conditions at any point in time. When portal glycemia and systemic glycemia fell concomitantly (SHAM-PER), epinephrine increased 12-fold above basal (3.75+/-0.34 and 44.56+/-6.1 nmol/l; P<0.001). However, maintenance of portal normoglycemia (SHAM-POR) caused a 50% suppression of the epinephrine response, despite cerebral hypoglycemia (22.2+/-3.1 nmol/l, P<0.001). Portal denervation resulted in a significant blunting of the sympathoadrenal response to whole-body hypoglycemia (PDN-PER 27.6+/-3.8 nmol/l vs. SHAM-PER; P<0.002). In contrast to the sham experiments, there was no further suppression in arterial epinephrine concentrations observed during PDN-POR versus PDN-PER (P = 0.8). These findings indicate that portal vein afferent innervation is critical for hypoglycemic detection and normal sympathoadrenal counterregulation.

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