Effects of glucagon-like peptide-1, yohimbine, and nitrergic modulation on sympathetic and parasympathetic activity in humans

Adil E. Bharucha, Nisha Charkoudian, Christopher N. Andrews, Michael Camilleri, David Sletten, Alan R. Zinsmeister, Phillip A. Low

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), an incretin, which is used to treat diabetes mellitus in humans, inhibited vagal activity and activated nitrergic pathways. In rats, GLP-1 also increased sympathetic activity, heart rate, and blood pressure (BP). However, the effects of GLP-1 on sympathetic activity in humans are unknown. Our aims were to assess the effects of a GLP-1 agonist with or without α2-adrenergic or -nitrergic blockade on autonomic nervous functions in humans. In this double-blind study, 48 healthy volunteers were randomized to GLP-1-(7-36) amide, the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor NG-monomethyl-L-arginine acetate (L-NMMA), the α2- adrenergic antagonist yohimbine, or placebo (i.e., saline), alone or in combination. Hemodynamic parameters, plasma catecholamines, and cardiac sympathetic and parasympathetic modulation were measured by spectral analysis of heart rate. Thereafter, the effects of GLP-1-(7-36) amide on muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) were assessed by microneurography in seven subjects. GLP-1 increased (P = 0.02) MSNA but did not affect cardiac sympathetic or parasympathetic indices, as assessed by spectral analysis. Yohimbine increased plasma catecholamines and the low-frequency (LF) component of heart rate power spectrum, suggesting increased cardiac sympathetic activity. L-NMMA increased the BP and reduced the heart rate but did not affect the balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic activity. GLP-1 increases skeletal muscle sympathetic nerve activity but does not appear to affect cardiac sympathetic or parasympathetic activity in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R874-R880
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Adrenergic
  • Catecholamines
  • Heart rate
  • Nitric oxide
  • Spectral analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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