Hepatic interoception in health and disease

Auton Neurosci. 2024 Mar 29;253:103174. doi: 10.1016/j.autneu.2024.103174. Online ahead of print.


The liver is a large organ with crucial functions in metabolism and immune defense, as well as blood homeostasis and detoxification, and it is clearly in bidirectional communication with the brain and rest of the body via both neural and humoral pathways. A host of neural sensory mechanisms have been proposed, but in contrast to the gut-brain axis, details for both the exact site and molecular signaling steps of their peripheral transduction mechanisms are generally lacking. Similarly, knowledge about function-specific sensory and motor components of both vagal and spinal access pathways to the hepatic parenchyma is missing. Lack of progress largely owes to controversies regarding selectivity of vagal access pathways and extent of hepatocyte innervation. In contrast, there is considerable evidence for glucose sensors in the wall of the hepatic portal vein and their importance for glucose handling by the liver and the brain and the systemic response to hypoglycemia. As liver diseases are on the rise globally, and there are intriguing associations between liver diseases and mental illnesses, it will be important to further dissect and identify both neural and humoral pathways that mediate hepatocyte-specific signals to relevant brain areas. The question of whether and how sensations from the liver contribute to interoceptive self-awareness has not yet been explored.

PMID:38579493 | DOI:10.1016/j.autneu.2024.103174