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Endocrinology. 1998 Apr;139(4):1771-80.

Gonadal steroids and hypothalamic galanin and neuropeptide Y: role in eating behavior and body weight control in female rats.

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  • 1Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021, USA.


The neuropeptides, galanin (GAL) and neuropeptide Y (NPY), based on studies in male rodents, are believed to have a role in controlling energy balance, both nutrient ingestion and metabolism. Whereas these peptides are also involved in reproduction, little is known about their specific function in energy balance in females. In rats consuming lab chow or macronutrient diets, measurements across the estrous cycle were taken of hypothalamic GAL and NPY, using RIA and immunohistochemistry; of the circulating hormones, estradiol, progesterone, and LH; and also of food intake and body weight. Levels of GAL and NPY peak during the proestrous phase of the female cycle when circulating estradiol and progesterone also rise. As previously reported for GAL, this peak is detected in two areas, the medial preoptic area (MPOA; +110%; P < 0.05) and the external zone of the median eminence (+57%; P < 0.05). In addition, this proestrous peak is seen in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN), specifically the anterior parvocellular portion (+35%; P < 0.05). Similarly, NPY rises during proestrous in the medial region of the PVN (+21%; P < 0.05) in addition to the MPOA (+78%; P < 0.05) and arcuate nucleus (+35%; P < 0.05). This peak in peptide levels is accompanied by an increase in caloric intake in rats receiving the lab chow diet and a specific increase in preference for fat in rats receiving macronutrient diets. Animals showing a preference for a fat-rich diet exhibit higher levels of GAL in the MPOA as well as the PVN and median eminence and also of NPY specifically in the MPOA. These peptides in the MPOA are similarly enhanced in animals with greater body fat, independent of diet. This evidence suggests that in the female rat, both GAL and NPY in the MPOA may contribute to the overeating and increased weight gain that occur during a fat-rich diet.

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