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Adipocyte. 2012 Apr 1;1(2):75-79.

Autophagy in the control of food intake.

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Department of Medicine (Endocrinology), and Molecular Pharmacology; and The Diabetes Research Center; Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Bronx, NY USA.


The cellular nutrient sensing apparatus detects nutritional depletion and transmits this information to downstream effectors that generate energy from alternate sources. Autophagy is a crucial catabolic pathway that turns over redundant cytoplasmic components in lysosomes to provide energy to the starved cell. Recent studies have described a role for hypothalamic autophagy in the control of food intake and energy balance. Activated autophagy in hypothalamic neurons during starvation mobilized neuron-intrinsic lipids to generate free fatty acids that increased AgRP levels. AgRP neuron-specific inhibition of autophagy decreased fasting-induced increases in AgRP levels and food intake. Deletion of autophagy in AgRP neurons led to constitutive increases in levels of proopiomelanocortin and its active processed product, α-melanocyte stimulating hormone that contributed to reduced adiposity in these rodents. The current manuscript discusses these new findings and raises additional questions that may help understand how hypothalamic autophagy controls food intake and energy balance. These studies may have implications for designing new therapies against obesity and insulin resistance.


AgRP; autophagy; energetic balance; food intake; hypothalamus; neuron

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