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J Neurosci. 2010 Feb 17;30(7):2533-41. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5768-09.2010.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor regulates hedonic feeding by acting on the mesolimbic dopamine system.

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02111, USA.


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its receptor, TrkB, play prominent roles in food intake regulation through central mechanisms. However, the neural circuits underlying their anorexigenic effects remain largely unknown. We showed previously that selective BDNF depletion in the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) of mice resulted in hyperphagic behavior and obesity. Here, we sought to ascertain whether its regulatory effects involved the mesolimbic dopamine system, which mediates motivated and reward-seeking behaviors including consumption of palatable food. We found that expression of BDNF and TrkB mRNA in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of wild-type mice was influenced by consumption of palatable, high-fat food (HFF). Moreover, amperometric recordings in brain slices of mice depleted of central BDNF uncovered marked deficits in evoked release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) shell and dorsal striatum but normal secretion in the NAc core. Mutant mice also exhibited dramatic increases in HFF consumption, which were exacerbated when access to HFF was restricted. However, mutants displayed enhanced responses to D(1) receptor agonist administration, which normalized their intake of HFF in a 4 h food intake test. Finally, in contrast to deletion of Bdnf in the VMH of mice, which resulted in increased intake of standard chow, BDNF depletion in the VTA elicited excessive intake of HFF but not of standard chow and increased body weights under HFF conditions. Our findings indicate that the effects of BDNF on eating behavior are neural substrate-dependent and that BDNF influences hedonic feeding via positive modulation of the mesolimbic dopamine system.

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