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Cell Metab. 2008 Feb;7(2):179-85. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2007.12.001.

Hypothalamic neural projections are permanently disrupted in diet-induced obese rats.

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Neuroscience Program, The Saban Research Institute, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA. <>


The arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARH) is a key component of hypothalamic pathways regulating energy balance, and leptin is required for normal development of ARH projections. Diet-induced obesity (DIO) has a polygenic mode of inheritance, and DIO individuals develop the metabolic syndrome when a moderate amount of fat is added to the diet. Here we demonstrate that rats selectively bred to develop DIO, which are known to be leptin resistant before they become obese, have defective ARH projections that persist into adulthood. Furthermore, the ability of leptin to activate intracellular signaling in ARH neurons in vivo and to promote ARH neurite outgrowth in vitro is significantly reduced in DIO neonates. Thus, animals that are genetically predisposed toward obesity display an abnormal organization of hypothalamic pathways involved in energy homeostasis that may be the result of diminished responsiveness of ARH neurons to the trophic actions of leptin during postnatal development.

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