The mechanisms responsible for the development of the impaired awareness of hypoglycemia often seen in insulin-treated patients with diabetes remain uncertain, but cerebral adaptations to recurrent hypoglycemia are frequently hypothesized. In this issue of the JCI, Ma et al. demonstrate that neuropeptide Y (NPY) secretion from adrenal chromaffin cells persists during exposure to recurrent hypoglycemia and activation of the sympathetic nerves at the same time that epinephrine secretion is reduced. This results in the inhibition of tyrosine hydroxylase, the rate-limiting enzyme for catecholamine synthesis. These observations suggest that a peripheral mechanism downstream from the brain contributes to the development of impaired awareness of hypoglycemia.
Elizabeth R. Seaquist