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J Endocrinol. 2004 Oct;183(1):173-81.

Diurnal changes in hypothalamic neuropeptide and SOCS-3 expression: effects of lactation and relationship with serum leptin and food intake.

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  • 1Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Group, Department of Medicine, The University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GA, UK.


Rats normally eat about 85% of their food at night. Lactation increases food intake 3- to 4-fold, but the diurnal pattern of food intake persists. The mechanisms responsible for the diurnal and lactation-induced changes in food intake are still unresolved, hence we have further investigated the possible roles of serum leptin and hypothalamic expression of neuropeptide Y (NPY), agouti-related peptide (AgRP) and pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) in rats. Suppressor of cytokine signalling-3 (SOCS-3) acts as a feedback inhibitor of leptin signalling in the hypothalamus, hence changes in expression of SOCS-3 were also investigated. Changes in expression of NPY, AgRP or POMC alone could not account for the diurnal changes in intake and their alteration by lactation. However, there were increased AgRP mRNA:POMC mRNA ratios at night and also during lactation, which were very similar to estimated changes in food intake. Such changes in expression may result in dominance of the orexigenic AgRP peptide over the appetite-suppressing POMC-derived peptides, and so could contribute to the hyperphagia in these states. Diurnal and lactation-related changes in the AgRP mRNA:POMC mRNA ratio and food intake are not due to changes in leptin alone. However, hypoleptinaemia, possibly through increased expression of NPY, may contribute to the hyperphagia of lactation. In the dark, expression of SOCS-3 was decreased in non-lactating rats; lactation decreased SOCS-3 expression in both light and dark phases. However, such changes are likely to enhance the ability of leptin-responsive neurones to transmit the leptin signal, and so are unlikely to contribute to either the nocturnal increase in appetite or the hyperphagia of lactation.

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