GABA release from proopiomelanocortin neurons

J Neurosci. 2004 Feb 18;24(7):1578-83. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3952-03.2004.


Neural networks controlling food intake and energy homeostasis clearly involve proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons and their peptide transmitters. alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone from arcuate POMC neurons potently reduces food intake, whereas arcuate neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurons act in opposition to stimulate food intake. In addition to orexigenic peptides, NPY neurons also release the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which can act in a local circuit to inhibit POMC neuron activity. Whether or not reciprocal inhibition could occur has not yet been determined, because the presence of a rapid neurotransmitter in POMC neurons has not been demonstrated previously. Here, we used primary cultures of fluorescently labeled POMC neurons that had formed recurrent synapses (autapses) to detect the release of neurotransmitter. When an action potential was evoked in the axon of a POMC neuron with autapses, a short-latency synaptic current was recorded in the same cell. The autaptic current was abolished by GABA(A) receptor antagonists and substantially inhibited by opioids. Double-label in situ RNA hybridization for POMC and glutamic acid decarboxylase, the GABA synthetic enzyme, revealed colocalization of mRNAs in approximately one-third of POMC neurons in vivo. Our results suggest that these neurons can exert rapid inhibitory effects via the release of GABA, in addition to the more sustained actions provided by POMC peptides. However, this rapid inhibition may not play a major role within local hypothalamic circuits, but rather is likely to be important in more distant projection areas as indicated by the colocalization of vesicular GABA transporter immunoreactivity predominantly in extrahypothalamic POMC terminals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • GABA Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Hypothalamus / cytology
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Transport Proteins*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Narcotics / pharmacology
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Organic Anion Transporters*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / genetics
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • GABA Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Narcotics
  • Organic Anion Transporters
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin