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Mol Cell Neurosci. 2014 Sep;62:30-41. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2014.08.001. Epub 2014 Aug 6.

Metabolic regulation of lateral hypothalamic glucose-inhibited orexin neurons may influence midbrain reward neurocircuitry.

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New Jersey Med. Sch., Rutgers University, Newark, NJ 07103, United States.
Univ. Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639, United States.
New Jersey Med. Sch., Rutgers University, Newark, NJ 07103, United States. Electronic address:


Lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) orexin neurons modulate reward-based feeding by activating ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA) neurons. We hypothesize that signals of peripheral energy status influence reward-based feeding by modulating the glucose sensitivity of LHA orexin glucose-inhibited (GI) neurons. This hypothesis was tested using electrophysiological recordings of LHA orexin-GI neurons in brain slices from 4 to 6week old male mice whose orexin neurons express green fluorescent protein (GFP) or putative VTA-DA neurons from C57Bl/6 mice. Low glucose directly activated ~60% of LHA orexin-GFP neurons in both whole cell and cell attached recordings. Leptin indirectly reduced and ghrelin directly enhanced the activation of LHA orexin-GI neurons by glucose decreases from 2.5 to 0.1mM by 53±12% (n=16, P<0.001) and 41±24% (n=8, P<0.05), respectively. GABA or neurotensin receptor blockade prevented leptin's effect on glucose sensitivity. Fasting increased activation of LHA orexin-GI neurons by decreased glucose, as would be predicted by these hormonal effects. We also evaluated putative VTA-DA neurons in a novel horizontal slice preparation containing the LHA and VTA. Decreased glucose increased the frequency of spontaneous excitatory post-synaptic currents (sEPSCs; 125 ± 40%, n=9, P<0.05) and action potentials (n=9; P<0.05) in 45% (9/20) of VTA DA neurons. sEPSCs were completely blocked by AMPA and NMDA glutamate receptor antagonists (CNQX 20 μM, n=4; APV 20μM, n=4; respectively), demonstrating that these sEPSCs were mediated by glutamatergic transmission onto VTA DA neurons. Orexin-1 but not 2 receptor antagonism with SB334867 (10μM; n=9) and TCS-OX2-29 (2μM; n=5), respectively, blocks the effects of decreased glucose on VTA DA neurons. Thus, decreased glucose increases orexin-dependent excitatory glutamate neurotransmission onto VTA DA neurons. These data suggest that the glucose sensitivity of LHA orexin-GI neurons links metabolic state and reward-based feeding.


Dopamine; Electrophysiology; Energy balance; Ghrelin; Leptin; Ventral tegmental area

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