We previously reported that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) regulates both food intake and blood glucose metabolism in rodent obese diabetic models such as C57BL/KsJ-lepr(db)/lepr(db) (db/db) mice. To elucidate the effect of BDNF on glucose metabolism, we designed a novel pellet pair-feeding apparatus to eliminate the effect of appetite alteration on glucose metabolism. The apparatus was used to synchronize food intake precisely between BDNF-treated and vehicle-treated db/db mice. It was shown using this pellet pair-feeding apparatus that BDNF administered daily (20 mg x kg(-1) x day(-1)) to db/db mice significantly lowered blood glucose compared with pellet pair-fed db/db mice. To evaluate the effect of BDNF on insulin action, we used streptozotocin-induced type 1 diabetic mice. In this case, BDNF did not lower blood glucose concentration but rather enhanced the hypoglycemic action of insulin. In hyperglycemic db/db mice, pancreatic insulin content was reduced and glucagon content was increased compared with normoglycemic db/m mice. BDNF administered to db/db mice significantly restored both pancreatic insulin and glucagon content. Histological observations of aldehyde-fuchsin staining and immunostaining with anti-insulin indicated that insulin-positive pancreatic beta-cells were extensively regranulated by BDNF administration. We also studied the effect of BDNF on KK mice, normoglycemic animals with impaired glucose tolerance. In these mice, BDNF administration improved insulin resistance in the oral glucose tolerance test. To elucidate how blood glucose was metabolized in BDNF-treated animals, we investigated the effect of BDNF on the energy metabolism of db/db mice. Body temperature and oxygen consumption of the pellet pair-fed vehicle-treated mice were remarkably lower than the ad libitum-fed vehicle-treated mice. Daily BDNF administration for 3 weeks completely ameliorated both of the reductions. Finally, to clarify its action mechanism, the effect of intracerebroventricular administration of BDNF on db/db mice was examined. Here, a small dose of BDNF was found to be effective in lowering blood glucose concentration. This indicates that BDNF regulates glucose metabolism by acting directly on the brain.

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