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J Biol Chem. 2010 Mar 26;285(13):9706-15. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.070706. Epub 2010 Jan 22.

NF-kappaB activation in hypothalamic pro-opiomelanocortin neurons is essential in illness- and leptin-induced anorexia.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul 138-736, Korea.


Anorexia and weight loss are prevalent in infectious diseases. To investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying these phenomena, we established animal models of infection-associated anorexia by administrating bacterial and viral products, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and human immunodeficiency virus-1 transactivator protein (Tat). In these models, we found that the nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB), a pivotal transcription factor for inflammation-related proteins, was activated in the hypothalamus. In parallel, administration of LPS and Tat increased hypothalamic pro-inflammatory cytokine production, which was abrogated by inhibition of hypothalamic NF-kappaB. In vitro, NF-kappaB activation directly stimulated the transcriptional activity of pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), a precursor of anorexigenic melanocortin, and mediated the stimulatory effects of LPS, Tat, and pro-inflammatory cytokines on POMC transcription, implying the involvement of NF-kappaB in controlling feeding behavior. Consistently, hypothalamic injection of LPS and Tat caused a significant reduction in food intake and body weight, which was prevented by blockade of NF-kappaB and melanocortin. Furthermore, disruption of I kappaB kinase-beta, an upstream kinase of NF-kappaB, in POMC neurons attenuated LPS- and Tat-induced anorexia. These findings suggest that infection-associated anorexia and weight loss are mediated via NF-kappaB activation in hypothalamic POMC neurons. In addition, hypothalamic NF-kappaB was activated by leptin, an important anorexigenic hormone, and mediates leptin-stimulated POMC transcription, indicating that hypothalamic NF-kappaB also serves as a downstream signaling pathway of leptin.

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