Neurotransmitters in key neurons of the hypothalamus that regulate feeding behavior and body weight

Author: Meister, B.

Description: During the last two decades attention has been focussed on the role of different neuropeptides in hypothalamic control of feeding behavior. Several hypothalamic peptides that participate in the control of ingestive behavior are produced in neuronal cell bodies of the arcuate nucleus and/or the lateral hypothalamic area. Apart from producing orexigenic or anorexigenic compounds of peptidergic nature, these neurons also produce excitatory and inhibitory amino acid neurotransmitters. The role of GABA and glutamate in regulating energy balance has received less attention in comparison to neuropeptides. The arcuate nucleus-median eminence area, a region with a weak blood-brain barrier, contains at least two neuronal cell populations that exert opposing actions on energy balance. The majority of the neurons located in the ventromedial aspect of the arcuate nucleus, which produce the orexigenic peptides neuropeptide Y (NPY) and agouti-related peptide (AGRP), contain in addition the GABA-synthesizing enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) and the vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT), thereby supporting their GABAergic nature. Some neurons producing pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC)- and cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART), located in the ventrolateral division of the arcuate nucleus have recently been reported to contain the vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGLUT2), a marker for glutamatergic neurons, and the acetylcholine (ACh) synthesizing enzyme choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) as well as the vesicular ACh transporter (VAChT), supporting also a cholinergic phenotype. In the lateral hypothalamic area, hypocretin/orexin neurons express VGLUT1 or VGLUT2, but not GAD, whereas some melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) cells contain GAD. These observations support the view that several classical transmitters, relatively neglected feeding transmitters candidates, are present in key neurons that regulate body weight and consequently may represent important orexigenic/anorexigenic mediators that convey information to other neurons within the hypothalamus as well as from the hypothalamus to other brain regions that participate in regulation of energy balance.

Subject headings: Animals; Appetite Regulation/physiology; Body Weight/physiology; Energy Metabolism/physiology; Feeding Behavior/physiology; Humans; Hypothalamus/cytology/physiology; Neurons/physiology; Neurotransmitter Agents/physiology

Publication year: 2007

Journal or book title: Physiology & Behavior

Volume: 92

Issue: 1-2

Pages: 263-271

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 320