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J Neurosci. 2012 Feb 29;32(9):3032-43. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5966-11.2012.

Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) inhibits melanin-concentrating hormone neurons: implications for TRH-mediated anorexic and arousal actions.

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


Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) increases activity and decreases food intake, body weight, and sleep, in part through hypothalamic actions. The mechanism of this action is unknown. Melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) and hypocretin/orexin neurons in the lateral hypothalamus (LH) together with neuropeptide Y (NPY) and proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons in the arcuate nucleus play central roles in energy homeostasis. Here, we provide electrophysiological evidence from GFP-reporter transgenic mouse brain slices that shows TRH modulates the activity of MCH neurons. Using whole-cell current-clamp recording, we unexpectedly found that TRH and its agonist, montrelin, dose-dependently inhibited MCH neurons. Consistent with previous reports, TRH excited hypocretin/orexin neurons. No effect was observed on arcuate nucleus POMC or NPY neurons. The TRH inhibition of MCH neurons was eliminated by bicuculline and tetrodotoxin, suggesting that the effect was mediated indirectly through synaptic mechanisms. TRH increased spontaneous IPSC frequency without affecting amplitude and had no effect on miniature IPSCs or EPSCs. Immunocytochemistry revealed little interaction between TRH axons and MCH neurons, but showed TRH axons terminating on or near GABA neurons. TRH inhibition of MCH neurons was attenuated by Na(+)-Ca(2+) exchanger (NCX) inhibitors, TRPC channel blockers and the phospholipase C inhibitor U-73122. TRH excited LH GABA neurons, and this was also reduced by NCX inhibitors. Finally, TRH attenuated the excitation of MCH neurons by hypocretin. Together, our data suggest that TRH inhibits MCH neurons by increasing synaptic inhibition from local GABA neurons. Inhibition of MCH neurons may contribute to the TRH-mediated reduction in food intake and sleep.

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