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J Neurosci. 2009 Apr 8;29(14):4622-39. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3249-08.2009.

Neuromedin B and gastrin-releasing peptide excite arcuate nucleus neuropeptide Y neurons in a novel transgenic mouse expressing strong Renilla green fluorescent protein in NPY neurons.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Yale University School of Medicine, 333 Cedar Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is one of the most widespread neuropeptides in the brain. Transgenic mice were generated that expressed bright Renilla green fluorescent protein (GFP) in most or all of the known NPY cells in the brain, which otherwise were not identifiable. GFP expression in NPY cells was confirmed with immunocytochemistry and single-cell reverse transcription-PCR. NPY neurons in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus play an important role in energy homeostasis and endocrine control. Whole-cell patch clamp recording was used to study identified arcuate NPY cells. Primary agents that regulate energy balance include melanocortin receptor agonists, AgRP, and cannabinoids; none of these substances substantially influenced electrical properties of NPY neurons. In striking contrast, neuropeptides of the bombesin family, including gastrin-releasing peptide and neuromedin B, which are found in axons in the mediobasal hypothalamus and may also be released from the gut to signal the brain, showed strong direct excitatory actions at nanomolar levels on the NPY neurons, stronger than the actions of ghrelin and hypocretin/orexin. Bombesin-related peptides reduced input resistance and depolarized the membrane potential. The depolarization was attenuated by several factors: substitution of choline for sodium, extracellular Ni(2+), inclusion of BAPTA in the pipette, KB-R7943, and SKF96365. Reduced extracellular calcium enhanced the current, which reversed around -20 mV. Together, these data suggest two mechanisms, activation of nonselective cation channels and the sodium/calcium exchanger. Since both NPY and POMC neurons, which we also studied, are similarly directly excited by bombesin-like peptides, the peptides may function to initiate broad activation, rather than the cell-type selective activation or inhibition reported for many other compounds that modulate energy homeostasis.

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