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J Biol Chem. 2011 Sep 16;286(37):32324-32. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.254417. Epub 2011 Jul 22.

Defective hypothalamic autophagy directs the central pathogenesis of obesity via the IkappaB kinase beta (IKKbeta)/NF-kappaB pathway.

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Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Diabetes Research Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, USA.


Autophagy has been recently demonstrated to control cell and tissue homeostasis, including the functions of various metabolic tissues. However, it remains unclear whether autophagy is critical for the central nervous system and particularly the hypothalamus for exerting metabolic regulation. Using autophagy-related protein 7 (Atg7) as an autophagic marker, this work showed that autophagy was highly active in the mediobasal hypothalamus of normal mice. In contrast, chronic development of dietary obesity was associated with autophagic decline in the mediobasal hypothalamus. To investigate the potential role of autophagy in the hypothalamic control of metabolic physiology, a mouse model was developed with autophagic inhibition in the mediobasal hypothalamus using site-specific delivery of lentiviral shRNA against Atg7. This model revealed that hypothalamic inhibition of autophagy increased energy intake and reduced energy expenditure. These metabolic changes were sufficient to increase body weight gain under normal chow feeding and exacerbate the progression of obesity and whole-body insulin resistance under high-fat diet feeding. To explore the underlying mechanism, this study found that defective hypothalamic autophagy led to hypothalamic inflammation, including the activation of proinflammatory IκB kinase β pathway. Using brain-specific IκB kinase β knockout mice, it was found that the effects of defective hypothalamic autophagy in promoting obesity were reversed by IκB kinase β inhibition in the brain. In conclusion, hypothalamic autophagy is crucial for the central control of feeding, energy, and body weight balance. Conversely, decline of hypothalamic autophagy under conditions of chronic caloric excess promotes hypothalamic inflammation and thus impairs hypothalamic control of energy balance, leading to accelerated development of obesity and comorbidities.

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