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Brain Res. 2003 Nov 28;992(1):9-19.

Altered levels of POMC, AgRP and MC4-R mRNA expression in the hypothalamus and other parts of the limbic system of mice prone or resistant to chronic high-energy diet-induced obesity.

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Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Science, University of Wollongong, Northfield Avenue, NSW 2522, Wollongong, Australia.


The melanocortinergic system plays an important role in promoting negative energy balance and preventing excessive fat deposition. This study has investigated the levels of mRNA expression of proopiomelanocortin (POMC), agouti-related protein (AgRP) and the melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4-R) in diet-induced obese (DIO) and diet-resistant (DR) mice. Thirty C57 mice were used in this study. Twenty-four mice were fed with a high-fat diet (HF: 40% of calories from fat, 20% from saturated fat) for 4 weeks and then classified as DIO and DR according to their body weight gain. Six mice were placed on a low-fat diet (LF: 10% of calories from fat, 1% from saturated fat) and were used as controls. After 22 weeks of feeding, visceral fat deposits were more than twice as heavy in the DIO mice as in the DR and LF mice, while the latter two groups had no significant difference. Using quantitative in situ hybridization techniques, this study found that the DIO mice had a significantly lower level of Arc POMC (-29%) and AgRP (-31%) mRNA expression than the DR and LF mice, respectively. The mice on high-fat diets had higher levels of AgRP mRNA expression in the bed nucleus of stria terminalis (BST), and ventral part of the lateral septal nucleus (LSV) than the LF mice. Furthermore, the DIO mice had a 40% higher level of MC4-R mRNA expression in the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus (VMH) and posterodorsal part of the medial amygdaloid nucleus (MePD) than the LF mice. In conclusion, this study has demonstrated that differential expression of POMC, AgRP and MC4-R mRNA levels exists in DIO, DR and LF mice. These differences were shown to occur in the specific nuclei of the hypothalamus and other parts of the limbic system. These findings may assist in understanding the involvement of the melanocortinergic system in the regulation of body weight via the autonomic and limbic systems.

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