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Brain Res. 2011 Sep 9;1411:17-27. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2011.07.003. Epub 2011 Jul 13.

Characterization of a novel melanocortin receptor-containing node in the SNS outflow circuitry to brown adipose tissue involved in thermogenesis.

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Department of Biology, Center for Obesity Reversal, Georgia State University,Atlanta, GA, 30302-4010, USA.


The melanocortins (MC) can affect interscapular brown adipose tissue (IBAT) thermogenesis via its sympathetic nervous system (SNS) innervation. We chose a site of high MC4-receptor (MC4-R) mRNA co-localization with SNS outflow neurons to IBAT, the subzona incerta (subZI) to test whether IBAT thermogenesis could be increased or decreased. We first performed immunohistochemical characterization of the subZI and found neurons and/or fibers in this area positive for melanin concentrating hormone, oxytocin, arginine vasopressin, agouti-related protein and alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone. Functional characterization of the subZI was tested via site-specific microinjections. The MC3/4-R agonist, melanotan II [MTII (0.025, 0.05 and 0.075nmol)], and specific MC4-R agonist (cyclo [ß-Ala-His-D-Phe-Arg-Trp-Glu]-NH2; 0.024nmol) both significantly increased IBAT temperature (T(IBAT)) and pretreatment with the MC4R antagonist, HS024 (0.072nmol) blocked the MC4-R agonist-induced increased T(IBAT) in conscious, freely-moving Siberian hamsters. Injection of the MC4-R antagonist alone significantly decreased T(IBAT) up to 3h post injection. Collectively, these results highlight the identification of a brain area that possesses high concentrations of MC4-R mRNA and SNS outflow neurons to IBAT that has not been previously reported to be involved in the control of T(IBAT). These results add to previously identified neural nodes that are components of the central circuits controlling thermogenesis.

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