Observations on the orexigenic hypothalamic neuropeptide Y-system in neonatally overfed weanling rats

J Neuroendocrinol. 1999 Jul;11(7):541-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2826.1999.00357.x.


Early postnatal overnutrition is a risk factor for obesity in juvenile and adult life. Underlying pathophysiological mechanisms are still unclear. Hypothalamic neuropeptides are decisively involved in the regulation of body weight and food intake. In this study, we investigated consequences of early postnatal overnutrition, as compared to normo-and undernutrition, on NPY within the arcuate nucleus and paraventricular nucleus (PVN). The normal litter size of Wistar rats was adjusted on the third day of life from 10 pups (normal litters, NL; normonutrition) to only three newborns (small litters, SL; overnutrition) or 18 pups per mother (large litters, LL; undernutrition). SL rats developed clear overweight until the day 21 of life (P<0.0001), as well as hyperleptinaemia (P<0.001), and hyperinsulinaemia (P<0.01). LL rats were underweight and had decreased leptin and insulin concentrations. Using radioimmunoassay, NPY contents were determined in hypothalamic micropunches, and immunocytochemistry for NPY was performed in serial hypothalamic sections on day 21 of life. While in the underweight, hypoleptinaemic, and hypoinsulinaemic LL rats increased concentrations of NPY in the arcuate nucleus and PVN were observed, no decrease in NPY content was found in the overweight, hyperleptinaemic, and hyperinsulinaemic SL rats. Moreover, the percentage of NPY-immunopositive neurones per total number of neurones was increased not only in the LL rats, but also in the SL rats. Since the NPY system is functionally mature already at this age, these findings might indicate an acquired resistance of the hypothalamic NPY system to increased levels of insulin and/or leptin in early postnatally overfed SL rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Body Weight
  • Eating*
  • Female
  • Hypothalamus / growth & development
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Insulin / blood
  • Litter Size
  • Male
  • Neuropeptide Y / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Neuropeptide Y