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Eur J Neurosci. 1999 Sep;11(9):3255-64.

Seasonal regulation of food intake and body weight in the male Siberian hamster: studies of hypothalamic orexin (hypocretin), neuropeptide Y (NPY) and pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC).

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Department of Anatomy, University of Cambridge, Downing Site, UK.


The aim of these experiments was to investigate the relationship between hypothalamic expression of orexin (also called hypocretin), neuropeptide Y (NPY) and pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) mRNA and seasonal cycles of body weight and food intake in the Siberian hamster. Adult males were transferred from long days of 16 h light and 8 h dark to short days of 8 h light and 16 h dark, a procedure known to induce major reductions in food intake and body weight in this species. After 8 weeks of exposure to short days, while body weight was declining, hypothalamic NPY mRNA levels as assessed by in situ hybridization were slightly lower (P < 0.05) than in age-matched controls exposed to long days. After 12 weeks with short days, when body weight would be expected to have reached its seasonal nadir, POMC mRNA levels were lower (P < 0.05) than in hamsters under long days. At no stage did orexin mRNA levels in hamsters under short days differ significantly from levels in those under long days. To investigate further the role of these peptide systems in seasonal changes in body weight and food intake, two provocative tests were carried out. Firstly, a 48-h fast induced a significant increase (P < 0.025) in hypothalamic NPY mRNA levels in both long- and short-day conditions, but did not change hypothalamic POMC or orexin mRNA levels. Secondly, systemic (intraperitoneal) treatment with recombinant murine leptin (5 mg/kg body weight) significantly decreased (P < 0.01) food intake over a 6-h post-treatment period in both long- and short-day conditions. However, this acute leptin treatment did not induce significant changes in hypothalamic orexin, NPY or POMC mRNA abundance. The increase in NPY expression in both long- and short-day conditions following food restriction and the suppression of food intake by leptin in both conditions suggests that acute homeostatic mechanisms operate in both long-day (obese) and short-day (nonobese) conditions. The lack of major changes in orexin, NPY and POMC in such different metabolic states suggest that other central systems must play a greater role in generating these states. Such findings are consistent with the 'sliding set-point' hypothesis, that is, seasonal cycles in food intake and fat metabolism are brought about by as yet unknown central mechanisms that chronically alter the level ('set point') around which homeostasis occurs, rather than resulting from changes in the potency of the acute feedback mechanisms themselves.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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