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J Neurosci. 2017 Sep 6;37(36):8678-8687. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0798-17.2017. Epub 2017 Aug 7.

AgRP Neurons Can Increase Food Intake during Conditions of Appetite Suppression and Inhibit Anorexigenic Parabrachial Neurons.

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Department of Biology, Program in Neuroscience, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts 01267.
Department of Biology, Program in Neuroscience, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts 01267


To maintain energy homeostasis, orexigenic (appetite-inducing) and anorexigenic (appetite suppressing) brain systems functionally interact to regulate food intake. Within the hypothalamus, neurons that express agouti-related protein (AgRP) sense orexigenic factors and orchestrate an increase in food-seeking behavior. In contrast, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)-expressing neurons in the parabrachial nucleus (PBN) suppress feeding. PBN CGRP neurons become active in response to anorexigenic hormones released following a meal, including amylin, secreted by the pancreas, and cholecystokinin (CCK), secreted by the small intestine. Additionally, exogenous compounds, such as lithium chloride (LiCl), a salt that creates gastric discomfort, and lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a bacterial cell wall component that induces inflammation, exert appetite-suppressing effects and activate PBN CGRP neurons. The effects of increasing the homeostatic drive to eat on feeding behavior during appetite suppressing conditions are unknown. Here, we show in mice that food deprivation or optogenetic activation of AgRP neurons induces feeding to overcome the appetite suppressing effects of amylin, CCK, and LiCl, but not LPS. AgRP neuron photostimulation can also increase feeding during chemogenetic-mediated stimulation of PBN CGRP neurons. AgRP neuron stimulation reduces Fos expression in PBN CGRP neurons across all conditions. Finally, stimulation of projections from AgRP neurons to the PBN increases feeding following administration of amylin, CCK, and LiCl, but not LPS. These results demonstrate that AgRP neurons are sufficient to increase feeding during noninflammatory-based appetite suppression and to decrease activity in anorexigenic PBN CGRP neurons, thereby increasing food intake during homeostatic need.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The motivation to eat depends on the relative balance of activity in distinct brain regions that induce or suppress appetite. An abnormal amount of activity in neurons that induce appetite can cause obesity, whereas an abnormal amount of activity in neurons that suppress appetite can cause malnutrition and a severe reduction in body weight. The purpose of this study was to determine whether a population of neurons known to induce appetite ("AgRP neurons") could induce food intake to overcome appetite-suppression following administration of various appetite-suppressing compounds. We found that stimulating AgRP neurons could overcome various forms of appetite suppression and decrease neural activity in a separate population of appetite-suppressing neurons, providing new insights into how the brain regulates food intake.


AgRP; CGRP; ChR2; appetite; food intake; parabrachial nucleus

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