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Endocrinology. 2007 May;148(5):2189-97. Epub 2007 Feb 22.

Leptin and the control of food intake: neurons in the nucleus of the solitary tract are activated by both gastric distension and leptin.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Leptin reduces food intake by an unspecified mechanism. Studies show that forebrain ventricular leptin delivery increases the inhibitory effects of gastrointestinal (GI) stimulation on intake and amplifies the electrophysiological response to gastric distension in neurons of the medial subnucleus of the nucleus tractus solitarius (mNTS). However, forebrain ventricular delivery leaves unspecified the neuroanatomical site(s) mediating leptin's effect on intake. Detailed anatomical analysis in rats and mice by phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 immunohistochemistry shows that hindbrain leptin-responsive neurons are located exclusively within the mNTS. Here, we investigate 1) whether leptin and gastric distension affect the same mNTS neurons and 2) whether the intake-inhibitory action of gastric distension is potentiated by hindbrain leptin delivery. Twenty-five minutes after gastric balloon distension or sham distension, rats were injected with leptin or vehicle and killed 35 min later. Double-fluorescent immunohistochemistry for phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 and c-Fos revealed that about 40% of leptin-responsive cells also respond to gastric distension. A paradigm was then developed to examine the relationship between leptin and gastric distension volume on intake inhibition. At subthreshold levels, hindbrain ventricular leptin or distension volume were without effect. When combined, an interaction occurred that significantly reduced food intake. We conclude that 1) leptin-responsive neurons in the hindbrain are primarily located in the mNTS at the level of the area postrema, a key vagal afferent projection zone of the GI system; 2) a significant proportion of leptin-responsive neurons in the mNTS are activated by stomach distension; and 3) leptin delivered to the hindbrain is sufficient to potentiate the intake-suppressive effects of an otherwise ineffective volume of gastric distension. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that leptin acts directly on neurons within the mNTS to reduce food intake through an interaction with GI signal processing.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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