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PLoS One. 2015 Oct 7;10(10):e0139462. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139462. eCollection 2015.

Defense of Elevated Body Weight Setpoint in Diet-Induced Obese Rats on Low Energy Diet Is Mediated by Loss of Melanocortin Sensitivity in the Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus.

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Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Papé Family Pediatric Research Institute, Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd. Portland, Oregon, United States of America.
Department of Oncology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Some animals and humans fed a high-energy diet (HED) are diet-resistant (DR), remaining as lean as individuals who were naïve to HED. Other individuals become obese during HED exposure and subsequently defend the obese weight (Diet-Induced Obesity- Defenders, DIO-D) even when subsequently maintained on a low-energy diet. We hypothesized that the body weight setpoint of the DIO-D phenotype resides in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN), where anorexigenic melanocortins, including melanotan II (MTII), increase presynaptic GABA release, and the orexigenic neuropeptide Y (NPY) inhibits it. After prolonged return to low-energy diet, GABA inputs to PVN neurons from DIO-D rats exhibited highly attenuated responses to MTII compared with those from DR and HED-naïve rats. In DIO-D rats, melanocortin-4 receptor expression was significantly reduced in dorsomedial hypothalamus, a major source of GABA input to PVN. Unlike melanocortin responses, NPY actions in PVN of DIO-D rats were unchanged, but were reduced in neurons of the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus; in PVN of DR rats, NPY responses were paradoxically increased. MTII-sensitivity was restored in DIO-D rats by several weeks' refeeding with HED. The loss of melanocortin sensitivity restricted to PVN of DIO-D animals, and its restoration upon prolonged refeeding with HED suggest that their melanocortin systems retain the ability to up- and downregulate around their elevated body weight setpoint in response to longer-term changes in dietary energy density. These properties are consistent with a mechanism of body weight setpoint.

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