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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2004 Jun;286(6):R994-1004.

A mechanism underlying mature-onset obesity: evidence from the hyperphagic phenotype of brain-derived neurotrophic factor mutants.

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  • 1Behavioral Neurogenetics Laboratory, Ingestive Behavior Research Center and Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA.


Mice deficient in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) develop mature-onset obesity, primarily due to overeating. To gain insight into the mechanism of this hyperphagia, we characterized food intake, body weight, meal pattern, and meal microstructure in young and mature mice fed balanced or high-fat diets. Hyperphagia and obesity occurred in mature but not young BDNF mutants fed a balanced diet. This hyperphagia was mediated by increased meal number, which was associated with normal meal size, meal duration, and satiety ratio. In contrast, the high-fat diet induced premature development of hyperphagia and obesity in young BDNF mutants and a similar magnitude hyperphagia in mature mutants. This hyperphagia was supported by increased meal size and was accompanied by a reduced satiety ratio. Thus the mechanism underlying hyperphagia was present before significant weight gain, but whether it occurred, and whether meal frequency or meal size was altered to support it, was modulated by a process associated with aging and by diet properties. Meal pattern changes associated with the balanced diet suggested meal initiation, and the oropharyngeal positive feedback that drives feeding, were enhanced and might have contributed to overeating in BDNF mutants, whereas negative feedback was normal. Consistent with this hypothesis, meal microstructure revealed that all hyperphagic mutant groups exhibited increased intake rates at meal onset. Therefore, the central nervous system targets of BDNF actions may include orosensory brain stem neurons that process and transmit positive feedback or forebrain neurons that modulate its strength.

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