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Neuron. 2004 May 27;42(4):635-52.

Physiological properties of hypothalamic MCH neurons identified with selective expression of reporter gene after recombinant virus infection.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Neurons that synthesize melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) may modulate arousal and energy homeostasis. The scattered MCH neurons have been difficult to study, as they have no defining morphological characteristics. We have developed a viral approach with AAV for selective long-term reporter gene (GFP) expression in MCH neurons, allowing the study of their cellular physiology in hypothalamic slices. MCH neurons showed distinct membrane properties compared to other neurons infected with the same virus with a cytomegalovirus promoter. Transmitters of extrahypothalamic arousal systems, including norepinephrine, serotonin, and the acetylcholine agonist muscarine, evoked direct inhibitory actions. Orexigenic neuropeptide Y was inhibitory by pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms; an anorexigenic melanocortin agonist had no effect. In contrast, the hypothalamic arousal peptide hypocretin/orexin evoked a direct inward current and increased excitatory synaptic activity and spike frequency in the normally silent MCH neurons. Together, these data support the view that MCH neurons may integrate information within the arousal system in favor of energy conservation.

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