An excitatory paraventricular nucleus to AgRP neuron circuit that drives hunger.
ABSTRACT: Hunger is a hard-wired motivational state essential for survival. Agouti-related peptide (AgRP)-expressing neurons in the arcuate nucleus (ARC) at the base of the hypothalamus are crucial to the control of hunger. They are activated by caloric deficiency and, when naturally or artificially stimulated, they potently induce intense hunger and subsequent food intake. Consistent with their obligatory role in regulating appetite, genetic ablation or chemogenetic inhibition of AgRP neurons decreases feeding. Excitatory input to AgRP neurons is important in caloric-deficiency-induced activation, and is notable for its remarkable degree of caloric-state-dependent synaptic plasticity. Despite the important role of excitatory input, its source(s) has been unknown. Here, through the use of Cre-recombinase-enabled, cell-specific neuron mapping techniques in mice, we have discovered strong excitatory drive that, unexpectedly, emanates from the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, specifically from subsets of neurons expressing thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) and pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP, also known as ADCYAP1). Chemogenetic stimulation of these afferent neurons in sated mice markedly activates AgRP neurons and induces intense feeding. Conversely, acute inhibition in mice with caloric-deficiency-induced hunger decreases feeding. Discovery of these afferent neurons capable of triggering hunger advances understanding of how this intense motivational state is regulated.
Project description:Artificial stimulation of Agouti-Related Peptide (AgRP) neurons promotes intense food consumption, yet paradoxically during natural behavior these cells are inhibited before feeding begins. Previously, to reconcile these observations, we showed that brief stimulation of AgRP neurons can generate hunger that persists for tens of minutes, but the mechanisms underlying this sustained hunger drive remain unknown (Chen et al., 2016). Here we show that Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is uniquely required for the long-lasting effects of AgRP neurons on feeding behavior. We blocked the ability of AgRP neurons to signal through AgRP, NPY, or GABA, and then stimulated these cells using a paradigm that mimics their natural regulation. Deletion of NPY, but not AgRP or GABA, abolished optically-stimulated feeding, and this was rescued by NPY re-expression selectively in AgRP neurons. These findings reveal a unique role for NPY in sustaining hunger in the interval between food discovery and consumption.
Project description:Eating and sleeping represent two mutually exclusive behaviors that satisfy distinct homeostatic needs. Because an animal cannot eat and sleep at the same time, brain systems that regulate energy homeostasis are likely to influence sleep/wake behavior. Indeed, previous studies indicate that animals adjust sleep cycles around periods of food need and availability. Furthermore, hormones that affect energy homeostasis also affect sleep/wake states: the orexigenic hormone ghrelin promotes wakefulness, and the anorexigenic hormones leptin and insulin increase the duration of slow-wave sleep. However, whether neural populations that regulate feeding can influence sleep/wake states is unknown. The hypothalamic arcuate nucleus contains two neuronal populations that exert opposing effects on energy homeostasis: agouti-related protein (AgRP)-expressing neurons detect caloric need and orchestrate food-seeking behavior, whereas activity in pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC)-expressing neurons induces satiety. We tested the hypotheses that AgRP neurons affect sleep homeostasis by promoting states of wakefulness, whereas POMC neurons promote states of sleep. Indeed, optogenetic or chemogenetic stimulation of AgRP neurons in mice promoted wakefulness while decreasing the quantity and integrity of sleep. Inhibition of AgRP neurons rescued sleep integrity in food-deprived mice, highlighting the physiological importance of AgRP neuron activity for the suppression of sleep by hunger. Conversely, stimulation of POMC neurons promoted sleep states and decreased sleep fragmentation in food-deprived mice. Interestingly, we also found that sleep deprivation attenuated the effects of AgRP neuron activity on food intake and wakefulness. These results indicate that homeostatic feeding neurons can hierarchically affect behavioral outcomes, depending on homeostatic need.
Project description:Hunger is a complex behavioural state that elicits intense food seeking and consumption. These behaviours are rapidly recapitulated by activation of starvation-sensitive AGRP neurons, which present an entry point for reverse-engineering neural circuits for hunger. Here we mapped synaptic interactions of AGRP neurons with multiple cell populations in mice and probed the contribution of these distinct circuits to feeding behaviour using optogenetic and pharmacogenetic techniques. An inhibitory circuit with paraventricular hypothalamus (PVH) neurons substantially accounted for acute AGRP neuron-evoked eating, whereas two other prominent circuits were insufficient. Within the PVH, we found that AGRP neurons target and inhibit oxytocin neurons, a small population that is selectively lost in Prader-Willi syndrome, a condition involving insatiable hunger. By developing strategies for evaluating molecularly defined circuits, we show that AGRP neuron suppression of oxytocin neurons is critical for evoked feeding. These experiments reveal a new neural circuit that regulates hunger state and pathways associated with overeating disorders.
Project description:Alcohol intake associates with overeating in humans. This overeating is a clinical concern, but its causes are puzzling, because alcohol (ethanol) is a calorie-dense nutrient, and calorie intake usually suppresses brain appetite signals. The biological factors necessary for ethanol-induced overeating remain unclear, and societal causes have been proposed. Here we show that core elements of the brain's feeding circuits-the hypothalamic Agrp neurons that are normally activated by starvation and evoke intense hunger-display electrical and biochemical hyperactivity on exposure to dietary doses of ethanol in brain slices. Furthermore, by circuit-specific chemogenetic interference in vivo, we find that the Agrp cell activity is essential for ethanol-induced overeating in the absence of societal factors, in single-housed mice. These data reveal how a widely consumed nutrient can paradoxically sustain brain starvation signals, and identify a biological factor required for appetite evoked by alcohol.
Project description:AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) plays an important role in regulating food intake. The downstream AMPK substrates and neurobiological mechanisms responsible for this, however, are ill defined. Agouti-related peptide (AgRP)-expressing neurons in the arcuate nucleus regulate hunger. Their firing increases with fasting, and once engaged they cause feeding. AgRP neuron activity is regulated by state-dependent synaptic plasticity: fasting increases dendritic spines and excitatory synaptic activity; feeding does the opposite. The signaling mechanisms underlying this, however, are also unknown. Using neuron-specific approaches to measure and manipulate kinase activity specifically within AgRP neurons, we establish that fasting increases AMPK activity in AgRP neurons, that increased AMPK activity in AgRP neurons is both necessary and sufficient for fasting-induced spinogenesis and excitatory synaptic activity, and that the AMPK phosphorylation target mediating this plasticity is p21-activated kinase. This provides a signaling and neurobiological basis for both AMPK regulation of energy balance and AgRP neuron state-dependent plasticity.
Project description:Neurons in the arcuate nucleus (ARC) sense the fed/fasted state and regulate hunger. ARCAgRP neurons release GABA, NPY and the melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R) antagonist, AgRP, and are activated by fasting1-4. When stimulated, they rapidly and potently drive hunger5,6. ARCPOMC neurons, in contrast, release the MC4R agonist, α-MSH, and are viewed as the counterpoint to ARCAgRP neurons. They are regulated in an opposite fashion and their activity leads to decreased hunger2,4,7. Together, ARCAgRP and ARCPOMC neurons constitute the ARC feeding center. Against this, however, is the finding that ARCPOMC neurons, unlike ARCAgRP neurons, fail to affect food intake over the timescale of minutes to hours following opto- or chemogenetic stimulation5,8. This suggests a rapidly acting component of the ARC satiety pathway is missing. Here, we show that excitatory ARC neurons identified by expression of vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGLUT2) and the oxytocin receptor, unlike ARCPOMC neurons, rapidly cause satiety when chemo- or optogenetically manipulated. These glutamatergic ARC projections synaptically converge with GABAergic ARCAgRP projections on MC4R-expressing neurons in the paraventricular hypothalamus (PVHMC4R neurons), which are known to mediate satiety9. ARCPOMC neurons also send dense projections to the PVH. Importantly, the α-MSH they release post-synaptically potentiates glutamatergic synaptic activity onto PVHMC4R neurons – including that emanating from ARCVglut2 neurons. This suggests a means by which α-MSH can bring about satiety – via postsynaptic potentiation of this novel ARCVglut2 to PVHMC4R satiety circuit. Thus, while fast (GABA and NPY) and slow (AgRP) ARC hunger signals are delivered together by ARCAgRP neurons10,11, the temporally analogous satiety signals from the ARC, glutamate and α-MSH, are delivered separately by two parallel, interacting projections (from ARCVGLUT2 and ARCPOMC neurons). Discovery of this rapidly acting excitatory ARC → PVH satiety circuit, and its regulation by α-MSH, provides new insight into regulation of hunger/satiety. Overall design: 23 samples representing single neurons dissociated from the arcuate hypothalamus of two young adult male vGLUT2-IRES-Cre mice
Project description:Agouti-related peptide (AgRP) neurons of the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARC) promote homeostatic feeding at times of caloric insufficiency, yet they are rapidly suppressed by food-related sensory cues before ingestion. Here we identify a highly selective inhibitory afferent to AgRP neurons that serves as a neural determinant of this rapid modulation. Specifically, GABAergic projections arising from the ventral compartment of the dorsomedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (vDMH) contribute to the preconsummatory modulation of ARCAgRP neurons. In a manner reciprocal to ARCAgRP neurons, ARC-projecting leptin receptor-expressing GABAergic vDMH neurons exhibit rapid activation upon availability of food that additionally reflects the relative value of the food. Thus, leptin receptor-expressing GABAergic vDMH neurons form part of the sensory network that relays real-time information about the nature and availability of food to dynamically modulate ARCAgRP neuron activity and feeding behavior.
Project description:In the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARH) satiety signaling (anorexigenic) pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC)-expressing and hunger signaling (orexigenic) agouti-related peptide (AgRP)-expressing neurons are key components of the neuronal circuits that control food intake and energy homeostasis. Here, we assessed whether the catecholamine noradrenalin directly modulates the activity of these neurons in mice. Perforated patch clamp recordings showed that noradrenalin changes the activity of these functionally antagonistic neurons in opposite ways, increasing the activity of the orexigenic NPY/AgRP neurons and decreasing the activity of the anorexigenic POMC neurons. Cell type-specific transcriptomics and pharmacological experiments revealed that the opposing effect on these neurons is mediated by the activation of excitatory ?1A - and ?- adrenergic receptors in NPY/AgRP neurons, while POMC neurons are inhibited via ?2A - adrenergic receptors. Thus, the coordinated differential modulation of the key hypothalamic neurons in control of energy homeostasis assigns noradrenalin an important role to promote feeding.
Project description:Recent studies indicate that activation of hypothalamic Agouti-related protein (Agrp) neurons can increase forage-related/repetitive behavior and decrease anxiety levels. However, the impact of physiological hunger states and food deprivation on anxiety-related behaviors have not been clarified. In the present study, we evaluated changes in anxiety levels induced by physiological hunger states and food deprivation, and identified the neuron population involved. Ad libitum fed and fasted mice were tested in the open field and elevated plus-maze behavioral tests. The DREADD approach was applied to selectively inhibit and stimulate neurons expressing Agrp in hypothalamic arcuate nucleus in Agrp-Cre transgenic mice. We found that anxiety levels were significantly reduced in the late light period when mice have increased need for food and increased Agrp neurons firing, in contrast to the levels in the early light period. Consistently, we also found that anxiety was potently reduced in 24-h fasted mice, relative to 12-h fasted mice or fed ad libitum. Mechanistically, we found that chemogenetic activation of Agrp neurons reduced anxiety in fed mice, and inactivation of Agrp neurons reduced fasting-induced anxiolytic effects. Our results suggest that anxiety levels may vary physiologically with the increasing need for food, and are influenced by acute fasting in a time-dependent manner. Agrp neurons contribute to fasting-induced anxiolytic effects, supporting the notion that Agrp neuron may serve as an entry point for the treatment of energy states-related anxiety disorders.
Project description:Previous studies have shown that AgRP neurons in the arcuate nucleus (ARC) respond to energy deficits and play a key role in the control of feeding behavior and metabolism. Here, we demonstrate that chronic unpredictable stress, an animal model of depression, decreases spontaneous firing rates, increases firing irregularity and alters the firing properties of AgRP neurons in both male and female mice. These changes are associated with enhanced inhibitory synaptic transmission and reduced intrinsic neuronal excitability. Chemogenetic inhibition of AgRP neurons increases susceptibility to subthreshold unpredictable stress. Conversely, chemogenetic activation of AgRP neurons completely reverses anhedonic and despair behaviors induced by chronic unpredictable stress. These results indicate that chronic stress induces maladaptive synaptic and intrinsic plasticity, leading to hypoactivity of AgRP neurons and subsequently causing behavioral changes. Our findings suggest that AgRP neurons in the ARC are a key component of neural circuitry involved in mediating depression-related behaviors and that increasing AgRP neuronal activity coule be a novel and effective treatment for depression.