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J Neuroendocrinol. 2007 Dec;19(12):974-82.

Melanocortin-4 receptor activation stimulates hypothalamic brain-derived neurotrophic factor release to regulate food intake, body temperature and cardiovascular function.

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Applied Pharmacology, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.


In the present study, we aimed to investigate the neuromodulatory role played by hypothalamic brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the regulation of acute cardiovascular and feeding responses to melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) activation. In vitro, a selective MC4R agonist, MK1, stimulated BDNF release from isolated rat hypothalami and this effect was blocked by preincubation with the MC3/4R antagonist SHU-9119. In vivo, peripheral administration of MK1 decreased food intake in rats and this effect was blocked by pretreatment with an anti-BDNF antibody administered into the third ventricle. When anorexia was induced with the cannabinoid-1 receptor (CB1R) antagonist AM251, the anti-BDNF antibody did not prevent the reduction in food intake. Peripheral administration of MK1 also increased mean arterial pressure, heart rate and body temperature. These effects were prevented by pretreatment with the anti-BDNF antibody whereas the intracerebroventricular administration of BDNF caused changes similar to those of MK1. These findings demonstrate for the first time that activation of MC4R leads to an acute release of BDNF in the hypothalamus. This release is a prerequisite for MC4R-induced effects on appetite, body temperature and cardiovascular function. By contrast, CB1R antagonist-mediated anorexia is independent of the MC4R/BDNF pathway. Overall, these results show that BDNF is an important downstream mediator of the MC4R pathway.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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