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Endocrinology. 2011 Jan;152(1):11-8. doi: 10.1210/en.2010-0778. Epub 2010 Nov 10.

A treasure trove of hypothalamic neurocircuitries governing body weight homeostasis.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hypothalamic Research, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Room Y6-220C, Dallas, Texas 75390-9077, USA.


Changes in physical activities and feeding habits have transformed the historically rare disease of obesity into a modern metabolic pandemic. Obesity occurs when energy intake exceeds energy expenditure over time. This energy imbalance significantly increases the risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus and as such represents an enormous socioeconomic burden and health threat. To combat obesity, a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms and neurocircuitries underlying normal body weight homeostasis is required. In the 1940s, pioneering lesion experiments unveiled the importance of medial and lateral hypothalamic structures. In the 1980s and 1990s, several neuropeptides and peripheral hormones critical for appropriate feeding behavior, energy expenditure, and hence body weight homeostasis were identified. In the 2000s, results from metabolic analyses of genetically engineered mice bearing mutations only in selected neuronal groups greatly advanced our knowledge of the peripheral/brain feedback-loop modalities by which central neurons control energy balance. In this review, we will summarize these recent progresses with particular emphasis on the biochemical identities of hypothalamic neurons and molecular components underlying normal appetite, energy expenditure, and body weight homeostasis. We will also parse which of those neurons and molecules are critical components of homeostatic adaptive pathways against obesity induced by hypercaloric feeding.

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