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J Neurosci. 2012 Apr 4;32(14):4812-20. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6326-11.2012.

The glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) analogue, exendin-4, decreases the rewarding value of food: a new role for mesolimbic GLP-1 receptors.

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Department of Physiology, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, The Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, SE-405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden.


The glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) system is a recently established target for type 2 diabetes treatment. In addition to regulating glucose homeostasis, GLP-1 also reduces food intake. Previous studies demonstrate that the anorexigenic effects of GLP-1 can be mediated through hypothalamic and brainstem circuits which regulate homeostatic feeding. Here, we demonstrate an entirely novel neurobiological mechanism for GLP-1-induced anorexia in rats, involving direct effects of a GLP-1 agonist, Exendin-4 (EX4) on food reward that are exerted at the level of the mesolimbic reward system. We assessed the impact of peripheral, central, and intramesolimbic EX4 on two models of food reward: conditioned place preference (CPP) and progressive ratio operant-conditioning. Food-reward behavior was reduced in the CPP test by EX4, as rats no longer preferred an environment previously paired to chocolate pellets. EX4 also decreased motivated behavior for sucrose in a progressive ratio operant-conditioning paradigm when administered peripherally. We show that this effect is mediated centrally, via GLP-1 receptors (GLP-1Rs). GLP-1Rs are expressed in several key nodes of the mesolimbic reward system; however, their function remains unexplored. Thus we sought to determine the neurobiological substrates underlying the food-reward effect. We found that the EX4-mediated inhibition of food reward could be driven from two key mesolimbic structures-ventral tegmental area and nucleus accumbens-without inducing concurrent malaise or locomotor impairment. The current findings, that activation of central GLP-1Rs strikingly suppresses food reward/motivation by interacting with the mesolimbic system, indicate an entirely novel mechanism by which the GLP-1R stimulation affects feeding-oriented behavior.

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