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Endocrinology. 2013 Jan;154(1):172-83. doi: 10.1210/en.2012-1643. Epub 2012 Nov 16.

AgRP innervation onto POMC neurons increases with age and is accelerated with chronic high-fat feeding in male mice.

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Diabetes Center, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


In many mammals, body weight increases continuously throughout adulthood until late middle age. The hormone leptin is necessary for maintaining body weight, in that high levels of leptin promote negative energy balance. As animals age, however, their increase in body weight is accompanied by a steady rise in circulating leptin levels, indicating the progressive development of counterregulatory mechanisms to antagonize leptin's anorexigenic effects. Hypothalamic neurons coexpressing agouti-related peptide (AgRP) and neuropeptide Y are direct leptin targets. These neurons promote positive energy balance, and they inhibit anorexigenic proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons via direct neuropeptide action and release of γ-aminobutyric acid. We show here that AgRP and neuropeptide Y innvervation onto POMC neurons increases dramatically with age in male mice. This is associated with progressive increase of inhibitory postsynaptic currents and decrease of POMC firing rate with age. Neuronal activity is significantly attenuated in POMC neurons that receive a high density of AgRP puncta. These high-density AgRP inputs correlate with leptin levels in normal mice and are nearly absent in mice lacking leptin. The progression of increased AgRP innervation onto POMC somas is accelerated in hyperleptinemic, diet-induced obese mice. Together our study suggests that modulation of hypothalamic AgRP innervation constitutes one mechanism to counter the effects of the age-associated rise in leptin levels, thus sustaining body weight and fat mass at an elevated level in adulthood.

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