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Neuroscience. 2013 Jan 15;229:176-99. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.09.078. Epub 2012 Oct 13.

Mechanism of hyperphagia contributing to obesity in brain-derived neurotrophic factor knockout mice.

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Behavioral Neurogenetics Laboratory, Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


Global-heterozygous and brain-specific homozygous knockouts (KOs) of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) cause late- and early-onset obesity, respectively, both involving hyperphagia. Little is known about the mechanism underlying this hyperphagia or whether BDNF loss from peripheral tissues could contribute to overeating. Since global-homozygous BDNF-KO is perinatal lethal, a BDNF-KO that spared sufficient brainstem BDNF to support normal health was utilized to begin to address these issues. Meal pattern and microstructure analyses suggested overeating of BDNF-KO mice was mediated by deficits in both satiation and satiety that resulted in increased meal size and frequency and implicated a reduction of vagal signaling from the gut to the brain. Meal-induced c-Fos activation in the nucleus of the solitary tract, a more direct measure of vagal afferent signaling, however, was not decreased in BDNF-KO mice, and thus was not consistent with a vagal afferent role. Interestingly though, meal-induced c-Fos activation was increased in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve (DMV) of BDNF-KO mice. This could imply that augmentation of vago-vagal digestive reflexes occurred (e.g., accommodation), which would support increased meal size and possibly increased meal number by reducing the increase in intragastric pressure produced by a given amount of ingesta. Additionally, vagal sensory neuron number in BDNF-KO mice was altered in a manner consistent with the increased meal-induced activation of the DMV. These results suggest reduced BDNF causes satiety and satiation deficits that support hyperphagia, possibly involving augmentation of vago-vagal reflexes mediated by central pathways or vagal afferents regulated by BDNF levels.

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