Glutamatergic receptor activation in the rostral ventrolateral medulla mediates the sympathoexcitatory response to hyperinsulinemia

Megan E. Bardgett, John J. McCarthy, Sean D. Stocker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Hyperinsulinemia increases sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) and has been linked to cardiovascular morbidity in obesity. The rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM) plays a key role in the regulation of SNA and arterial blood pressure (ABP). Many sympathoexcitatory responses are mediated by glutamatergic receptor activation within the RVLM, and both the central renin-angiotensin and melanocortin systems are implicated in the sympathoexcitatory response to hyperinsulinemia. Therefore, we hypothesized that one or more of these neurotransmitters in the RVLM mediate the sympathoexcitatory response to insulin. Hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamps were performed in α-chloralose anesthetized, male Sprague-Dawley rats by infusion of insulin (3.75 mU/kg per minute, IV) and 50% dextrose solution for 120 minutes. Physiological increases in plasma insulin elevated lumbar SNA, with no change in renal SNA, ABP, or blood glucose. Microinjection of the ionotropic glutamate receptor antagonist kynurenic acid into the RVLM significantly reduced lumbar SNA and ABP. Selective blockade of NMDA but not non-NMDA glutamate receptors resulted in similar reductions of lumbar SNA. In marked contrast, microinjection of the angiotensin II type 1 receptor antagonist losartan or the melanocortin 3/4 antagonist SHU9119 had no effect on lumbar SNA or ABP. Western blot analysis showed that insulin receptor expression is significantly lower in the RVLM than the hypothalamus, and direct microinjection of insulin into the RVLM did not significantly increase lumbar SNA. These findings suggest that hyperinsulinemia increases lumbar SNA by activation of a glutamatergic NMDA-dependent projection to the RVLM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-290
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • Arterial blood pressure
  • Insulin
  • Obesity
  • RVLM
  • Sympathetic nerve activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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