Evidence has mounted that insulin can be synthesized in various brain regions, including the hypothalamus. However, the distribution and functions of insulin-expressing cells in the hypothalamus remain elusive. Herein, we show that in the mouse hypothalamus, the perikarya of insulin-positive neurons are located in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and their axons project to the median eminence; these findings define parvocellular neurosecretory PVN insulin neurons. Contrary to corticotropin-releasing hormone expression, insulin expression in the PVN was inhibited by restraint stress (RS) in both adult and young mice. Acute RS–induced inhibition of PVN insulin expression in adult mice decreased both pituitary growth hormone (Gh) mRNA level and serum GH concentration, which were attenuated by overexpression of PVN insulin. Notably, PVN insulin knockdown or chronic RS in young mice hindered normal growth via the downregulation of GH gene expression and secretion, whereas PVN insulin overexpression in young mice prevented chronic RS–induced growth retardation by elevating GH production. Our results suggest that in both normal and stressful conditions, insulin synthesized in the parvocellular PVN neurons plays an important role in the regulation of pituitary GH production and body length, unveiling a physiological function of brain-derived insulin.
Jaemeun Lee, Kyungchan Kim, Jae Hyun Cho, Jin Young Bae, Timothy P. O’Leary, James D. Johnson, Yong Chul Bae, Eun-Kyoung Kim