Aims/hypothesis: Recurrent hypoglycaemia (RH) is a major side-effect of intensive insulin therapy for people with diabetes. Changes in hypoglycaemia sensing by the brain contribute to the development of impaired counterregulatory responses to and awareness of hypoglycaemia. Little is known about the intrinsic changes in human astrocytes in response to acute and recurrent low glucose (RLG) exposure. Methods: Human primary astrocytes (HPA) were exposed to zero, one, three or four bouts of low glucose (0.1 mmol/l) for three hours per day for four days to mimic RH. On the fourth day, DNA and RNA were collected. Differential gene expression and ontology analyses were performed using DESeq2 and GOseq respectively. DNA methylation was assessed using the Infinium MethylationEPIC BeadChip platform. Results: 24 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were detected (after correction for multiple comparisons). One bout of low glucose exposure had the largest effect on gene expression. Pathway analyses revealed that endoplasmic-reticulum (ER) stress-related genes such as HSPA5, XBP1, and MANF, involved in the unfolded protein response (UPR), were all significantly increased following LG exposure, which was diminished following RLG. There was little correlation between differentially methylated positions and changes in gene expression yet the number of bouts of LG exposure produced distinct methylation signatures. Conclusions/interpretation: These data suggest that exposure of human astrocytes to transient LG triggers activation of genes involved in the UPR linked to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. Following RLG, the activation of UPR related genes was diminished, suggesting attenuated ER stress. This may be mediated by metabolic adaptations to better preserve intracellular and/or ER ATP levels, but this requires further investigation.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience