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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Sep 15;106(37):15932-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0904747106. Epub 2009 Sep 2.

Functional requirement of AgRP and NPY neurons in ovarian cycle-dependent regulation of food intake.

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  • 1Diabetes Center, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


In female mammals including rodents and humans, feeding decreases during the periovulatory period of the ovarian cycle, which coincides with a surge in circulating estrogen levels. Ovariectomy increases food intake, which can be normalized by estrogen treatment at a dose and frequency mimicking those during the estrous cycle. Furthermore, administration of estrogen to rodents potently inhibits food intake. Despite these well-known effects of estrogen, neuronal subtypes that mediate estrogen's anorexigenic effects have not been identified. In this study, we show that changes in hypothalamic expression of agouti-related protein (Agrp) and neuropeptide Y (Npy) coincide with the cyclic changes in feeding across the estrous cycle. These cyclic changes in feeding are abolished in mice with degenerated AgRP neurons even though these mice cycle normally. Central administration of 17beta-estradiol (E2) decreases food intake in controls but not in mice lacking the AgRP neurons. Furthermore, E2 treatment suppresses fasting-induced c-Fos activation in AgRP and NPY neurons and blunts the refeeding response. Surprisingly, although estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) is the key mediator of estrogen's anorexigenic effects, we find that expression of ERalpha is completely excluded from AgRP and NPY neurons in the mouse hypothalamus, suggesting that estrogen may regulate these neurons indirectly via presynaptic neurons that express ERalpha. This study indicates that neurons coexpressing AgRP and NPY are functionally required for the cyclic changes in feeding across estrous cycle and that AgRP and NPY neurons are essential mediators of estrogen's anorexigenic function.

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