Interacting appetite-regulating pathways in the hypothalamic regulation of body weight

Endocr Rev. 1999 Feb;20(1):68-100. doi: 10.1210/edrv.20.1.0357.


Various aspects of the complex spatio-temporal patterning of hypothalamic signaling that leads to the development of synchronized nocturnal feeding in the rat are critically examined. Undoubtedly, as depicted in Fig. 7, a distinct ARN in the hypothalamus is involved in the control of nocturnal appetite. At least four basic elements operate within this ARN. These are: 1) A discrete appetite-driving or orexigenic network of NPY, NE, GABA, GAL, EOP, and orexin transduces and releases appetite-stimulating signals. 2) Similarly, anorexigenic signal-producing pathways (e.g., CRH, GLP-1, alpha MSH, and CART) orchestrate neural events for dissipation of appetite and to terminate feeding, possibly by interrupting NPY efflux and action at a postsynaptic level within the hypothalamus. It is possible that some of these may represent the physiologically relevant "off" switches under the influence of GABA alone, or AgrP alone, or in combination with NPY released from the NPY-, GABA-, and AgrP-coproducing neurons. 3) Recent evidence shows that neural elements in the VMN-DMN complex tonically restrain the orexigenic signals during the intermeal interval; the restraint is greatly aided by leptin's action via diminution of orexigenic (NPY) and augmentation of anorexigenic (GLP-1, alpha MSH, and CART) signals. Since interruption of neurotransmission in the VMN resulted in hyperphagia and development of leptin resistance, it seems likely that the VMN is an effector site for the restraint exercised by leptin. The daily rhythms in leptin synthesis and release are temporally dissociable because the onset of daily rise in leptin gene expression in adipocytes precedes that in leptin secretion. Nevertheless, these rhythms are in phase with daily ingestive behavior because the peak in circulating leptin levels occurs during the middle of the feeding period. These observations, coupled with the fact that circulating levels of leptin are directly related to adiposity, pose a new challenge for elucidating the precise role of leptin in daily patterning of feeding in the rat. 4) A neural timing mechanism also operates upstream from the ARN in the daily management of energy homeostasis. Although the precise anatomical boundaries are not clearly defined, this device is likely to be composed of a group of neurons that integrate incoming internal and external information for the timely onset of the drive to eat. Evidently, this network operates independently in primates, but it is entrained to the circadian time keeper in the SCN of rodents. Apart from its role in the onset of drive to eat, the circadian patterns of gene expression of NPY, GAL, and POMC denote independent control of the timing device on the synthesis and availability for release of orexigenic signals. The VMN-DMN-PVN complex is apparently an integrated constituent of the timing mechanism in this context, because lesions in each of these sites result in loss of regulated feeding. The accumulated evidence points to the PVN and surrounding neural sites within this framework as the primary sites of release and action of various orexigenic and anorexigenic signals. A novel finding is the identification of the interconnected wiring of the DMN-mPVN axis that may mediate leptin restraint on NPY-induced feeding. The chemical phenotypes of leptin and NPY target neurons in this axis remain to be identified. These multiple orexigenic and anorexigenic pathways in the hypothalamic ARN appear to represent redundancy, a characteristic of regulated biological systems to provide a "fail-safe" neural mechanism to meet an organism's constant energy needs for growth and maintenance. Within this formulation, the coexisting orexigenic signals (NPY, NE, GAL, GABA, and AgrP) represent either another level of redundancy or it is possible that these signals operate within the ARN as reinforcing agents to varying degrees under different circumstances. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology*
  • Body Weight*
  • Homeostasis*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Leptin
  • Peptides / physiology
  • Proteins / physiology


  • Leptin
  • Peptides
  • Proteins