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1.  Loss of the liver X receptor LXRα/β in peripheral sensory neurons modifies energy expenditure 
eLife  null;4:e06667.
Peripheral neural sensory mechanisms play a crucial role in metabolic regulation but less is known about the mechanisms underlying vagal sensing itself. Recently, we identified an enrichment of liver X receptor alpha and beta (LXRα/β) in the nodose ganglia of the vagus nerve. In this study, we show mice lacking LXRα/β in peripheral sensory neurons have increased energy expenditure and weight loss when fed a Western diet (WD). Our findings suggest that the ability to metabolize and sense cholesterol and/or fatty acids in peripheral neurons is an important requirement for physiological adaptations to WDs.
eLife digest
The vagus nerves run from the brainstem to the heart and the digestive system and help to control several processes including digestion and heart rate. Because of their role in regulating food intake, these nerves are attractive targets for scientists hoping to develop treatments for obesity.
There are two types of fat tissue found in mammals: white fat, which is used as an energy store and makes up most of the extra fat seen in obese individuals; and brown fat, which can generate body heat. The vagus nerves monitor fat and cholesterol levels in the body via receptor proteins that respond to messages sent from the fat tissues and the liver. Previous research unexpectedly found that mice genetically engineered to lack these receptor proteins—called LXRα and LXRβ—do not become obese even when fed a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet that would make normal mice gain excessive weight.
Mansuy-Aubert et al. have now investigated in more detail why mice without these receptor proteins are resistant to obesity. When fed a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet, mice that lacked the LXRα and LXRβ receptors in sensory neurons had higher cholesterol levels in their nerve cells than normal mice on the same diet. Mice lacking these receptors also burned more energy and gained less weight than normal mice.
Next, Mansuy-Aubert et al. examined fat tissue from both types of mice. This revealed that the heat-generating brown fat was more active in mice lacking the LXRα and LXRβ receptors. Some of the white fat in these mice had also become more like brown fat, allowing the mice to burn more energy and so gain less weight.
In many Western countries, many people also eat a diet that is high in fat and cholesterol. This raises the possibility that drugs that block the LXRα and LXRβ receptors in sensory neurons in humans could help to treat or prevent obesity, although further work will be needed to investigate this.
PMCID: PMC4467361  PMID: 26076474
nuclear receptors; sensory neurons; energy expenditure; mouse
2.  Serotonin 2C receptors in pro-opiomelanocortin neurons regulate energy and glucose homeostasis 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(12):5061-5070.
Energy and glucose homeostasis are regulated by central serotonin 2C receptors. These receptors are attractive pharmacological targets for the treatment of obesity; however, the identity of the serotonin 2C receptor–expressing neurons that mediate the effects of serotonin and serotonin 2C receptor agonists on energy and glucose homeostasis are unknown. Here, we show that mice lacking serotonin 2C receptors (Htr2c) specifically in pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons had normal body weight but developed glucoregulatory defects including hyperinsulinemia, hyperglucagonemia, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance. Moreover, these mice did not show anorectic responses to serotonergic agents that suppress appetite and developed hyperphagia and obesity when they were fed a high-fat/high-sugar diet. A requirement of serotonin 2C receptors in POMC neurons for the maintenance of normal energy and glucose homeostasis was further demonstrated when Htr2c loss was induced in POMC neurons in adult mice using a tamoxifen-inducible POMC-cre system. These data demonstrate that serotonin 2C receptor–expressing POMC neurons are required to control energy and glucose homeostasis and implicate POMC neurons as the target for the effect of serotonin 2C receptor agonists on weight-loss induction and improved glycemic control.
PMCID: PMC3859401  PMID: 24177424
3.  Dnmt3a in Sim1 Neurons Is Necessary for Normal Energy Homeostasis 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(46):15288-15296.
Obesity rates continue to rise throughout the world. Recent evidence has suggested that environmental factors contribute to altered energy balance regulation. However, the role of epigenetic modifications to the central control of energy homeostasis remains unknown. To investigate the role of DNA methylation in the regulation of energy balance, we investigated the role of the de novo DNA methyltransferase, Dnmt3a, in Single-minded 1 (Sim1) cells, including neurons in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVH). Dnmt3a expression levels were decreased in the PVH of high-fat-fed mice. Mice lacking Dnmt3a specifically in the Sim1 neurons, which are expressed in the forebrain, including PVH, became obese with increased amounts of abdominal and subcutaneous fat. The mice were also found to have hyperphagia, decreased energy expenditure, and glucose intolerance with increased serum insulin and leptin. Furthermore, these mice developed hyper-LDL cholesterolemia when fed a high-fat diet. Gene expression profiling and DNA methylation analysis revealed that the expression of tyrosine hydroxylase and galanin were highly upregulated in the PVH of Sim1-specific Dnmt3a deletion mice. DNA methylation levels of the tyrosine hydroxylase promoter were decreased in the PVH of the deletion mice. These results suggest that Dnmt3a in the PVH is necessary for the normal control of body weight and energy homeostasis and that tyrosine hydroxylase is a putative target of Dnmt3a in the PVH. These results provide evidence for a role for Dnmt3a in the PVH to link environmental conditions to altered energy homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC4228132  PMID: 25392496
DNA methylation; Dnmt3a; epigenetics; feeding; hypothalamus; obesity
4.  Melanocortin 4 receptors in autonomic neurons regulate thermogenesis and glycemia 
Nature neuroscience  2014;17(7):911-913.
Melanocortin 4 receptors (Mc4rs) are expressed by extra-hypothalamic neurons including cholinergic autonomic pre-ganglionic neurons. However, whether Mc4rs in these neurons are required to control energy and glucose homeostasis is unclear. Here we report that Mc4rs in sympathetic, but not parasympathetic, pre-ganglionic neurons are required to regulate energy expenditure and body weight including brown and white adipose tissue thermogenic responses to diet and cold exposure. In addition, deletion of Mc4rs in both sympathetic and parasympathetic cholinergic neurons impairs glucose homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC4090093  PMID: 24908101
5.  Laser-Capture Microdissection and Transcriptional Profiling of the Dorsomedial Nucleus of the Hypothalamus 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2012;520(16):3617-3632.
Identifying neuronal molecular markers with restricted patterns of expression is a crucial step in dissecting the numerous pathways and functions of the brain. While the dorsomedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (DMH) has been implicated in a host of physiological processes, current functional studies have been limited by the lack of molecular markers specific for DMH. Identification of such markers would facilitate the development of mouse models with DMH-specific genetic manipulations. Here we used a combination of laser-capture microdissection (LCM) and gene expression profiling to identify genes that are highly expressed within the DMH relative to adjacent hypothalamic regions. Six of the most highly expressed of these genes, Gpr50, 4930511J11Rik, Pcsk5, Grp, Sulf1, and Rorβ, were further characterized by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis and in situ hybridization histochemistry. The genes identified in this article will provide the basis for future gene-targeted approaches for studying DMH function.
PMCID: PMC3741992  PMID: 22473294
DMH; LCM; hypothalamus
6.  Tipping the scales early: probing the long-term effects of obesity 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(11):3840-3842.
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and obesity-related illnesses have become a leading preventable cause of death. Childhood obesity is also growing in frequency, and the impact of a lifetime spent in the overweight state is only beginning to emerge in the literature. In this issue of the JCI, Bumaschny et al. used a genetic mouse model to investigate the self-perpetuating nature of obesity and shed some light on why it can become increasingly difficult to lose weight over time.
PMCID: PMC3484467  PMID: 23093788
7.  A Serotonin and Melanocortin Circuit Mediates d-Fenfluramine Anorexia 
d-Fenfluramine (d-Fen) increases serotonin (5-HT) content in the synaptic cleft and exerts anorexigenic effects in animals and humans. However, the neural circuits that mediate these effects are not fully identified. To address this issue, we assessed the efficacy of d-Fen-induced hypophagia in mouse models with manipulations of several genes in selective populations of neurons. Expectedly, we found that global deletion of 5-HT 2C receptors (5-HT2CRs) significantly attenuated d-Fen-induced anorexia. These anorexigenic effects were restored in mice with 5-HT2CRs expressed only in pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons. Further, we found that deletion of melanocortin 4 receptors (MC4Rs), a downstream target of POMC neurons, abolished anorexigenic effects of d-Fen. Reexpression of MC4Rs only in SIM1 neurons in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus and neurons in the amygdala was sufficient to restore the hypophagic property of d-Fen. Thus, our results identify a neurochemically defined neural circuit through which d-Fen influences appetite and thereby indicate that this 5-HT2CR/POMC-MC4R/SIM1 circuit may yield a more refined target to exploit for weight loss.
PMCID: PMC3466475  PMID: 21048120
8.  Serotonin 2C receptor activates a distinct population of arcuate pro-opiomelanocortin neurons via TRPC channels 
Neuron  2011;71(3):488-497.
Serotonin 2C receptors (5-HT2CRs) expressed by pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons of hypothalamic arcuate nucleus regulate food intake, energy homeostasis and glucose metabolism. However, the cellular mechanisms underlying the effects of 5-HT to regulate POMC neuronal activity via 5-HT2CRs have not yet been identified. In the present study, we found the putative transient receptor potential C (TRPC) channels mediate the activation of a subpopulation of POMC neurons by mCPP (a 5-HT2CR agonist). Interestingly, mCPP-activated POMC neurons were found to be a distinct population from those activated by leptin. Together, our data suggest that 5-HT2CR and leptin receptors are expressed by distinct subpopulations of arcuate POMC neurons and that both 5-HT and leptin exert their actions in POMC neurons via TRPC channels.
PMCID: PMC3184528  PMID: 21835345
9.  Modulation of the central melanocortin system by leptin, insulin, and serotonin: co-ordinated actions in a dispersed neuronal network 
Over the past century, prevalent models of energy and glucose homeostasis have been developed from a better understanding of the neural circuits underlying obesity and diabetes. From the early hypothalamic lesion reports to the more recent pharmacological and molecular/genetic studies, the hypothalamic melanocortin system has been shown to play a critical role in the regulation of metabolism. This review attempts to highlight contributions to our current understanding of how numerous neuromodulators (leptin, insulin, and serotonin) integrate with the central melanocortin system to coordinate alterations in energy and glucose balance.
PMCID: PMC3085544  PMID: 21211525
leptin; insulin; serotonin; obesity; diabetes; patch-clamp
10.  FOXO1 in the ventromedial hypothalamus regulates energy balance 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(7):2578-2589.
The transcription factor FOXO1 plays a central role in metabolic homeostasis by regulating leptin and insulin activity in many cell types, including neurons. However, the neurons mediating these effects and the identity of the molecular targets through which FOXO1 regulates metabolism remain to be defined. Here, we show that the ventral medial nucleus of the hypothalamus (VMH) is a key site of FOXO1 action. We found that mice lacking FOXO1 in steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1) neurons of the VMH are lean due to increased energy expenditure. The mice also failed to appropriately suppress energy expenditure in response to fasting. Furthermore, these mice displayed improved glucose tolerance due to increased insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle and heart. Gene expression profiling and sequence analysis revealed several pathways regulated by FOXO1. In addition, we identified the nuclear receptor SF-1 as a direct FOXO1 transcriptional target in the VMH. Collectively, our data suggest that the transcriptional networks modulated by FOXO1 in VMH neurons are key components in the regulation of energy balance and glucose homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3386826  PMID: 22653058
11.  SF-1 in the Ventral Medial Hypothalamic Nucleus: A Key Regulator of Homeostasis 
Molecular and cellular endocrinology  2010;336(1-2):219-223.
The ventral medial hypothalamic nucleus (VMH) regulates food intake and body weight homeostasis. The nuclear receptor NR5A1 (Steroidogenic factor 1; SF-1) is a transcription factor whose expression is highly restricted in the VMH and is required for the development of the nucleus. Neurons expressing SF-1 in the VMH have emerged as playing important roles in the regulation of body weight and energy homeostasis. Many of these studies have used site-specific gene KO approaches, providing insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of energy homeostasis by the SF-1 neurons of the VMH. In this brief review, we will focus on recent studies defining the molecular mechanisms regulating energy homeostasis and body weight in the VMH, particularly stressing the SF-1 expressing neurons.
PMCID: PMC3057357  PMID: 21111025
ARH, arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus; Diet-induced obesity; DMH, dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus; Energy homeostasis; SF-1, steroidogenic factor 1; VMH, ventral medial nucleus of the hypothalamus
12.  Direct leptin action on POMC neurons regulates glucose homeostasis and hepatic insulin sensitivity in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(3):1000-1009.
Leptin action on its receptor (LEPR) stimulates energy expenditure and reduces food intake, thereby lowering body weight. One leptin-sensitive target cell mediating these effects on energy balance is the proopiomelano­cortin (POMC) neuron. Recent evidence suggests that the action of leptin on POMC neurons regulates glucose homeostasis independently of its effects on energy balance. Here, we have dissected the physiological impact of direct leptin action on POMC neurons using a mouse model in which endogenous LEPR expression was prevented by a LoxP-flanked transcription blocker (loxTB), but could be reactivated by Cre recombinase. Mice homozygous for the LeprloxTB allele were obese and exhibited defects characteristic of LEPR deficiency. Reexpression of LEPR only in POMC neurons in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus did not reduce food intake, but partially normalized energy expenditure and modestly reduced body weight. Despite the moderate effects on energy balance and independent of changes in body weight, restoring LEPR in POMC neurons normalized blood glucose and ameliorated hepatic insulin resistance, hyperglucagonemia, and dyslipidemia. Collectively, these results demonstrate that direct leptin action on POMC neurons does not reduce food intake, but is sufficient to normalize glucose and glucagon levels in mice otherwise lacking LEPR.
PMCID: PMC3287225  PMID: 22326958
13.  Sixteen years and counting: an update on leptin in energy balance 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(6):2087-2093.
Cloned in 1994, the ob gene encodes the protein hormone leptin, which is produced and secreted by white adipose tissue. Since its discovery, leptin has been found to have profound effects on behavior, metabolic rate, endocrine axes, and glucose fluxes. Leptin deficiency in mice and humans causes morbid obesity, diabetes, and various neuroendocrine anomalies, and replacement leads to decreased food intake, normalized glucose homeostasis, and increased energy expenditure. Here, we provide an update on the most current understanding of leptin-sensitive neural pathways in terms of both anatomical organization and physiological roles.
PMCID: PMC3104762  PMID: 21633176
14.  5-HT2CRs Expressed by Pro-opiomelanocortin Neurons Regulate Insulin Sensitivity in Liver 
Nature neuroscience  2010;13(12):1457-1459.
Mice lacking 5-HT 2C receptors (5-HT2CRs) displayed insulin resistance in the liver, a phenotype normalized by re-expression of 5-HT2CRs only in pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons. 5-HT2CR deficiency also abolished anti-diabetic effects of mCPP (a 5-HT2CR agonist) while such effects were restored in mice with 5-HT2CRs re-expressed in POMC neurons. Our findings demonstrated that 5-HT2CRs expressed by POMC neurons are physiologically relevant regulators of insulin sensitivity and glucose homeostasis in the liver.
PMCID: PMC3059249  PMID: 21037584
15.  Leptin receptor expression in hindbrain Glp-1 neurons regulates food intake and energy balance in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(6):2413-2421.
Leptin is an adipose-derived hormone that signals to inform the brain of nutrient status; loss of leptin signaling results in marked hyperphagia and obesity. Recent work has identified several groups of neurons that contribute to the effects of leptin to regulate energy balance, but leptin receptors are distributed throughout the brain, and the function of leptin signaling in discrete neuronal populations outside of the hypothalamus has not been defined. In the current study, we produced mice in which the long form of the leptin receptor (Lepr) was selectively ablated using Cre-recombinase selectively expressed in the hindbrain under control of the paired-like homeobox 2b (Phox2b) promoter (Phox2b Cre Leprflox/flox mice). In these mice, Lepr was deleted from glucagon-like 1 peptide–expressing neurons resident in the nucleus of the solitary tract. Phox2b Cre Leprflox/flox mice were hyperphagic, displayed increased food intake after fasting, and gained weight at a faster rate than wild-type controls. Paradoxically, Phox2b Cre Leprflox/flox mice also exhibited an increased metabolic rate independent of a change in locomotor activity that was dependent on food intake, and glucose homeostasis was normal. Together, these data support a physiologically important role of direct leptin action in the hindbrain.
PMCID: PMC3104740  PMID: 21606595
16.  Hypothalamic POMC neurons promote cannabinoid-induced feeding 
Nature  2015;519(7541):45-50.
Hypothalamic pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons promote satiety. Cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R) is critical for central regulation of food intake. We interrogated whether CB1R-controlled feeding is paralleled by decreased activity of POMC neurons. Chemical promotion of CB1R activity increased feeding, and strikingly, CB1R activation also promoted neuronal activity of POMC cells. This paradoxical increase in POMC activity was crucial for CB1R-induced feeding, because Designer-Receptors-Exclusively-Activated-by-Designer-Drugs (DREADD)-mediated inhibition of POMC neurons diminished, while DREADD-mediated activation of POMC neurons enhanced CB1R-driven feeding. The Pomc gene encodes both the anorexigenic peptide, α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH), and the peptide, β-endorphin. CB1R activation selectively increased β-endorphin but not α-MSH release in the hypothalamus, and, systemic or hypothalamic administration of the opioid receptor antagonist, naloxone, blocked acute CB1R-induced feeding. These processes involved mitochondrial adaptations, which, when blocked, abolished CB1R-induced cellular responses and feeding. Together, these results unmasked a previously unsuspected role of POMC neurons in promotion of feeding by cannabinoids.
PMCID: PMC4496586  PMID: 25707796
17.  Monitoring FoxO1 localization in Chemically Identified Neurons 
The PI3K-Akt-FoxO1 pathway contributes to the actions of insulin and leptin in several cell types, including neurons in the central nervous system. However, identifying these actions in chemically identified neurons has proven difficult. To address this problem, we have developed a reporter mouse for monitoring PI3K-Akt signaling in specific populations of neurons, based on FoxO1 nucleocytoplasmic shuttling. The reporter, FoxO1 fused to GFP (FoxO1GFP), is expressed under the control of a ubiquitous promoter that is silenced by a loxP flanked transcriptional blocker. Thus, the expression of the reporter in selected cells is dependent on the action Cre-recombinase. Using this model, we found that insulin treatment resulted in the nuclear exclusion of FoxO1GFP within POMC and AgRP neurons in a dose- and time-dependent manner. FoxO1GFP nuclear exclusion was also observed in POMC neurons following in vivo administration of insulin. In addition, leptin induced transient nuclear export of FoxO1GFP in POMC neurons in a dose dependent fashion. Finally, insulin-induced nuclear export was impaired in POMC neurons by pretreatment with free fatty acids, a paradigm known to induce insulin resistance in peripheral insulin target tissues. Thus, our FoxO1GFP mouse provides a tool for monitoring the status of PI3K-Akt signaling in a cell-specific manner under physiological and pathophysiological conditions.
PMCID: PMC2615536  PMID: 19074037
FoxO1; POMC neurons; AgRP neurons; insulin; Free fatty acids; insulin resistance
18.  Acute effects of leptin require PI3K signaling in hypothalamic proopiomelanocortin neurons in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2008;118(5):1796-1805.
Normal food intake and body weight homeostasis require the direct action of leptin on hypothalamic proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons. It has been proposed that leptin action requires PI3K activity. We therefore assessed the contribution of PI3K signaling to leptin’s effects on POMC neurons and organismal energy balance. Leptin caused a rapid depolarization of POMC neurons and an increase in action potential frequency in patch-clamp recordings of hypothalamic slices. Pharmacologic inhibition of PI3K prevented this depolarization and increased POMC firing rate, indicating a PI3K-dependent mechanism of leptin action. Mice with genetically disrupted PI3K signaling in POMC cells failed to undergo POMC depolarization or increased firing frequency in response to leptin. Insulin’s ability to hyperpolarize POMC neurons was also abolished in these mice. Moreover, targeted disruption of PI3K blunted the suppression of feeding elicited by central leptin administration. Despite these differences, mice with impaired PI3K signaling in POMC neurons exhibited normal long-term body weight regulation. Collectively, these results suggest that PI3K signaling in POMC neurons is essential for leptin-induced activation and insulin-induced inhibition of POMC cells and for the acute suppression of food intake elicited by leptin, but is not a major contributor to the regulation of long-term organismal energy homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC2276395  PMID: 18382766
19.  Circuits Controlling Energy Balance and Mood: Inherently Intertwined or Just Complicated Intersections? 
Cell metabolism  2014;19(6):902-909.
Recent reports of adverse psychiatric events from seemingly different types of weight loss therapies highlight a previously under-estimated overlap between CNS circuits that control energy balance and those that regulate mood. In this Perspective, we discuss a few potential brain sites where the homeostatic and the hedonic pathways may intersect and suggest that a better understanding of both pathways is necessary for the development of more effective and safe anti-obesity therapies.
PMCID: PMC4047152  PMID: 24630814
Weight-loss drugs; psychiatric side effects; bariatric surgeries; atypical antipsychotics; food intake; neural circuits; homeostatic; hedonic
20.  Elevated resistin levels induce central leptin resistance and increased atherosclerotic progression in mice 
Diabetologia  2014;57(6):1209-1218.
Resistin was originally identified as an adipocyte-derived factor upregulated during obesity and as a contributor to obesity-associated insulin resistance. Clinically, resistin has also been implicated in cardiovascular disease in a number of different patient populations. Our aim was to simultaneously address these phenomena.
We generated mice with modest adipocyte-specific resistin overexpression. These mice were crossed with mice deficient in the LDL receptor (Ldlr−/−) to probe the physiological role of resistin. Both metabolic and atherosclerotic assessments were performed.
Resistin overexpression led to increased atherosclerotic progression in Ldlr−/− mice. This was in part related to elevated serum triacylglycerol levels and a reduced ability to clear triacylglycerol upon a challenge. Additional phenotypic changes, such as increased body weight and reduced glucose clearance, independent of the Ldlr−/− background, confirmed increased adiposity associated with a more pronounced insulin resistance. A hallmark of elevated resistin was the disproportionate increase in circulating leptin levels. These mice thus recapitulated both the proposed negative cardiovascular correlation and the insulin resistance. A unifying mechanism for this complex phenotype was a resistin-mediated central leptin resistance, which we demonstrate directly both in vivo and in organotypic brain slices. In line with reduced sympathetic nervous system outflow, we found decreased brown adipose tissue (BAT) activity. The resulting elevated triacylglycerol levels provide a likely explanation for accelerated atherosclerosis.
Resistin overexpression leads to a complex metabolic phenotype driven by resistin-mediated central leptin resistance and reduced BAT activity. Hypothalamic leptin resistance thus provides a unifying mechanism for both resistin-mediated insulin resistance and enhanced atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC4106234  PMID: 24623101
Adipose tissue; Atherosclerosis; Brown adipose tissue; Insulin resistance; Leptin; Leptin resistance; Obesity; Resistin; Triacylglycerol; Type 2 diabetes
21.  “AMPing up” our understanding of the hypothalamic control of energy balance 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2007;117(8):2089-2092.
AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) has emerged as a metabolic “fuel gauge,” which oscillates between anabolic and catabolic processes that ultimately influence energy balance. A study in this issue of the JCI by Claret et al. now extends the role of AMPK in medial basal hypothalamic neurons (see the related article beginning on page 2325). These findings maintain AMPK signaling as a common cellular mechanism in proopiomelanocortin and neuropeptide Y/agouti-related protein neurons and links hypothalamic AMPK to coordinated energy and glucose homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC1934582  PMID: 17671647
22.  Mice lacking ghrelin receptors resist the development of diet-induced obesity 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2005;115(12):3564-3572.
Ghrelin is the endogenous ligand for the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR; ghrelin receptor). Since its discovery, accumulating evidence has suggested that ghrelin may play a role in signaling and reversing states of energy insufficiency. For example, ghrelin levels rise following food deprivation, and ghrelin administration stimulates feeding and increases body weight and adiposity. However, recent loss-of-function studies have raised questions regarding the physiological significance of ghrelin in regulating these processes. Here, we present results of a study using a novel GHSR-null mouse model, in which ghrelin administration fails to acutely stimulate food intake or activate arcuate nucleus neurons. We show that when fed a high-fat diet, both female and male GHSR-null mice eat less food, store less of their consumed calories, preferentially utilize fat as an energy substrate, and accumulate less body weight and adiposity than control mice. Similar effects on body weight and adiposity were also observed in female, but not male, GHSR-null mice fed standard chow. GHSR deletion also affected locomotor activity and levels of glycemia. These findings support the hypothesis that ghrelin-responsive pathways are an important component of coordinated body weight control. Moreover, our data suggest that ghrelin signaling is required for development of the full phenotype of diet-induced obesity.
PMCID: PMC1297251  PMID: 16322794
23.  PPARγ in Vagal Neurons Regulates High-Fat Diet Induced Thermogenesis 
Cell metabolism  2014;19(4):722-730.
The vagus nerve innervates visceral organs and have long been suspected to play a role in surveying peripheral metabolic status and relaying it to the CNS. However, it remains unknown whether vagal sensory neurons can directly interact with dietary-derived nutrients and whether altered nutrient sensing by the vagus nerve would impair long-term energy balance. In this study, we systematically profiled nuclear receptor expression in vagal sensory neurons and found PPARγ expression is negatively regulated by high-fat-diet feeding (HFD). We demonstrate PPARγ in vagal neurons regulates HFD-induced thermogenesis that involves active re-programing of white adipocyte cell fate. Moreover, we show that PPARγ regulates the expression of a set of neuronal genes that are important for synaptic transmission. Altogether, our findings provide insights into how vagal afferents survey metabolic information from peripheral tissues and demonstrated that PPARγ-dependent lipid sensing in vagal sensory neurons is important for the maintenance of energy homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC4046333  PMID: 24703703
nuclear receptor; dietary-derived lipids; vagal afferents; nutrient sensing; energy homeostasis
24.  Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor stimulation increases blood pressure and heart rate and activates autonomic regulatory neurons 
Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) released from the gut functions as an incretin that stimulates insulin secretion. GLP-1 is also a brain neuropeptide that controls feeding and drinking behavior and gastric emptying and elicits neuroendocrine responses including development of conditioned taste aversion. Although GLP-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists are under development for the treatment of diabetes, GLP-1 administration may increase blood pressure and heart rate in vivo. We report here that centrally and peripherally administered GLP-1R agonists dose-dependently increased blood pressure and heart rate. GLP-1R activation induced c-fos expression in the adrenal medulla and neurons in autonomic control sites in the rat brain, including medullary catecholamine neurons providing input to sympathetic preganglionic neurons. Furthermore, GLP-1R agonists rapidly activated tyrosine hydroxylase transcription in brainstem catecholamine neurons. These findings suggest that the central GLP-1 system represents a regulator of sympathetic outflow leading to downstream activation of cardiovascular responses in vivo.
PMCID: PMC151031  PMID: 12093887
25.  Leptin Mediates the Increase in Blood Pressure Associated with Obesity 
Cell  2014;159(6):1404-1416.
Obesity is associated with increased blood pressure (BP), which in turn increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. We found that the increase in leptin levels seen in diet-induced obesity (DIO) drives an increase in BP in rodents, an effect that was not seen in animals deficient in leptin or leptin receptors (LepR). Furthermore, humans with loss-of-function mutations in leptin and the LepR have low BP despite severe obesity. Leptin’s effects on BP are mediated by neuronal circuits in the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH), as blocking leptin with a specific antibody, antagonist, or inhibition of the activity of LepR-expressing neurons in the DMH caused a rapid reduction of BP in DIO mice, independent of changes in weight. Re-expression of LepRs in the DMH of DIO LepR-deficient mice caused an increase in BP. These studies demonstrate that leptin couples changes in weight to changes in BP in mammalian species.
Graphical Abstract
•Leptin is the link between obesity and increased blood pressure•Leptin acts through the dorsomedial hypothalamus to increase blood pressure•Blockade of leptin signaling reduces blood pressure in obese mice•Humans with defects in leptin signaling are protected from obesity hypertension
Leptin is found to be the link between obesity and increased blood pressure. Blocking leptin action reduces blood pressure in obese mice with clinical studies in humans, suggesting that defects in leptin signaling may protect against hypertension associated with obesity.
PMCID: PMC4259491  PMID: 25480301

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