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J Comp Neurol. 1998 Dec 28;402(4):442-59.

Chemically defined projections linking the mediobasal hypothalamus and the lateral hypothalamic area.

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Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Recent studies have identified several neuropeptide systems in the hypothalamus that are critical in the regulation of body weight. The lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) has long been considered essential in regulating food intake and body weight. Two neuropeptides, melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) and the orexins (ORX), are localized in the LHA and provide diffuse innervation of the neuraxis, including monosynaptic projections to the cerebral cortex and autonomic preganglionic neurons. Therefore, MCH and ORX neurons may regulate both cognitive and autonomic aspects of food intake and body weight regulation. The arcuate nucleus also is critical in the regulation of body weight, because it contains neurons that express leptin receptors, neuropeptide Y (NPY), alpha-melanin-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH), and agouti-related peptide (AgRP). In this study, we examined the relationships of these peptidergic systems by using dual-label immunohistochemistry or in situ hybridization in rat, mouse, and human brains. In the normal rat, mouse, and human brain, ORX and MCH neurons make up segregated populations. In addition, we found that AgRP- and NPY-immunoreactive neurons are present in the medial division of the human arcuate nucleus, whereas alpha-MSH-immunoreactive neurons are found in the lateral arcuate nucleus. In humans, AgRP projections were widespread in the hypothalamus, but they were especially dense in the paraventricular nucleus and the perifornical area. Moreover, in both rat and human, MCH and ORX neurons receive innervation from NPY-, AgRP-, and alpha-MSH-immunoreactive fibers. Projections from populations of leptin-responsive neurons in the mediobasal hypothalamus to MCH and ORX cells in the LHA may link peripheral metabolic cues with the cortical mantle and may play a critical role in the regulation of feeding behavior and body weight.

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