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Reduction of oxytocin-containing neurons and enhanced glymphatic activity in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus

Research group Kalsbeek
Publication year 2023
Published in Acta neuropathologica communications
Authors Felipe Correa-Da-silva, M.J.T. Kalsbeek, Femke S Gadella, Jorn Oppersma, Wei Jiang, Samantha Wolff, Nikita L. Korpel, D.F. Swaab, Eric Fliers, A. Kalsbeek, Chun-Xia Yi

Evidence from animal experiments has shown that the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) plays a key role in regulating body weight and blood glucose levels. However, it is unclear whether neuron populations in the human PVN are involved in the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). To address this, we investigated the neuronal and glial populations in the PVN of 26 T2DM patients and 20 matched controls. Our findings revealed a significant reduction in oxytocin (Oxt) neuron density in the PVN of T2DM patients compared to controls, while other neuronal populations remained unchanged. This suggests that Oxt neurons may play a specific role in the pathophysiology of T2DM. Interestingly, the reduction in Oxt neurons was accompanied by a decreased melanocortinergic input in to the PVN as reflected by a reduction in alpha-MSH immunoreactivity. We also analysed two glial cell populations, as they are important for maintaining a healthy neural microenvironment. We found that microglial density, phagocytic capacity, and their proximity to neurons were not altered in T2DM patients, indicating that the loss of Oxt neurons is independent of changes in microglial immunity. However, we did observe a reduction in the number of astrocytes, which are crucial for providing trophic support to local neurons. Moreover, a specific subpopulation of astrocytes characterized by aquaporin 4 expression was overrepresented in T2DM patients. Since this subset of astrocytes is linked to the glymphatic system, their overrepresentation might point to alterations in the hypothalamic waste clearance system in T2DM. Our study shows selective loss of Oxt neurons in the PVN of T2DM individuals in association with astrocytic reduction and gliovascular remodelling. Therefore, hypothalamic Oxt neurons may represent a potential target for T2DM treatment modalities.

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