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Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 2004 Sep 28;128(2):150-9.

Increases in melanin-concentrating hormone and MCH receptor levels in the hypothalamus of dietary-obese rats.

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  • 1Neuroendocrine and Obesity Biology Unit, Department of Medicine, Liverpool University, 4th Floor U.C.D., Duncan Building, Daulby Street, Liverpool, UK.


Melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) is a hypothalamic neuropeptide that stimulates feeding and increases body weight in rodents. We studied the role of the system in energy homeostasis and its regulation by the satiety signals, leptin and insulin. We used real-time PCR to measure the hypothalamic expression of MCH and its receptor (MCHR1) in two contrasting models of altered nutritional status, namely, obesity induced by 8 weeks' voluntary overeating and food restriction for 10 days. Diet-fed rats were stratified according to final total fat-pad mass into a 'high fat gain' group (HG) and 'low fat gain' group (LG). MCH mRNA levels were increased by 31% (p>0.05) and 49% (p<0.05) in the LG and HG, respectively, compared with controls. MCHR1 mRNA levels rose by 118% in the LG (p<0.01) and 85% in the HG (p<0.01). There were significant positive correlations (p<0.05) between plasma leptin concentration and both MCH and MCHR1 mRNA levels, and between plasma insulin and MCHR1 expression. A positive correlation was also observed between MCH and MCHR1 mRNA levels (p<0.05). Food-restricted rats showed no significant alterations in the levels of either MCH mRNA or MCHR1 mRNA. In a second experiment, we measured MCH peptide levels in five discrete hypothalamic areas of dietary-obese rats. MCH concentrations were significantly increased in the arcuate nuclei of the HG (p<0.05) and the paraventricular nuclei of both the LG (p<0.05) and HG (p<0.05), compared with their lean counterparts. These results suggest that the MCH system becomes more active in dietary obesity and could be involved in enhancing appetite for palatable food. The possibility that MCH and MCHR1 expression are positively regulated by leptin and insulin, which normally inhibit feeding, is a putative explanation for how appetite for palatable food is able to override mechanisms that prevent the development of obesity.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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