Hypothalamic control of energy balance: different peptides, different functions

Peptides. 2004 Mar;25(3):473-504. doi: 10.1016/j.peptides.2004.02.006.


Energy balance is maintained via a homeostatic system involving both the brain and the periphery. A key component of this system is the hypothalamus. Over the past two decades, major advances have been made in identifying an increasing number of peptides within the hypothalamus that contribute to the process of energy homeostasis. Under stable conditions, equilibrium exists between anabolic peptides that stimulate feeding behavior, as well as decrease energy expenditure and lipid utilization in favor of fat storage, and catabolic peptides that attenuate food intake, while stimulating sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity and restricting fat deposition by increasing lipid metabolism. The equilibrium between these neuropeptides is dynamic in nature. It shifts across the day-night cycle and from day to day and also in response to dietary challenges as well as peripheral energy stores. These shifts occur in close relation to circulating levels of the hormones, leptin, insulin, ghrelin and corticosterone, and also the nutrients, glucose and lipids. These circulating factors together with neural processes are primary signals relaying information regarding the availability of fuels needed for current cellular demand, in addition to the level of stored fuels needed for long-term use. Together, these signals have profound impact on the expression and production of neuropeptides that, in turn, initiate the appropriate anabolic or catabolic responses for restoring equilibrium. In this review, we summarize the evidence obtained on nine peptides in the hypothalamus that have emerged as key players in this process. Data from behavioral, physiological, pharmacological and genetic studies are described and consolidated in an attempt to formulate a clear statement on the underlying function of each of these peptides and also on how they work together to create and maintain energy homeostasis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Peptides / physiology*


  • Peptides