Role for brain corticotropin-releasing factor in the weight-reducing effects of chronic fenfluramine treatment in rats

Endocrinology. 1991 Jun;128(6):3237-46. doi: 10.1210/endo-128-6-3237.


Fenfluramine is an amphetamine derivative which is used as a weight-reducing agent in the treatment of obesity. It has been postulated that fenfluramine affects brain serotonin (5HT) neurons resulting in decreased food intake and altered autonomic outflow which, in turn, increases metabolism. CRF decreases food intake and, in addition, has been demonstrated to reduce body weight in genetically obese rats through selective activation of sympathetic and inhibition of parasympathetic outflows. Because 5HT is a potent CRF secretagogue, we tested the hypothesis that the weight-reducing effects of fenfluramine administration may be mediated, in part, through altered CRF secretion. Chronic fenfluramine treatment (1-24 mg/kg sc, twice daily, 4 days) resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in hypothalamic CRF concentration at 30 min after the final drug injection and was accompanied by a significant reciprocal increase in plasma corticosterone concentration. These data suggest that the decrease in hypothalamic CRF was a consequence of increased CRF secretion. These changes in hypothalamic CRF and plasma corticosterone correlated with brain fenfluramine levels. In contrast, high dose fenfluramine treatment significantly increased hippocampus, midbrain, and spinal cord CRF concentrations whereas levels in cerebral cortex, caudate putamen, thalamus, pons/medulla, and cerebellum were unaffected. There was no effect of this fenfluramine treatment protocol on regional brain TRH or neurotensin concentrations. In keeping with the well known development of tolerance to the weight-reducing effects of fenfluramine, chronic fenfluramine treatment resulted in lesser increases in corticosterone secretion than after acute treatment. Whereas weight loss observed after chronic fenfluramine treatment was associated with stimulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical hormone secretion, the weight-recovery phase after cessation of drug treatment was associated with decreased levels of plasma corticosterone. These data, demonstrating fenfluramine-induced alterations in brain CRF and plasma corticosterone, suggest that CRF may represent an important endogenous transmitter which mediates the weight-reducing effects of the drug.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fenfluramine / pharmacokinetics
  • Fenfluramine / pharmacology*
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Time Factors


  • Neuropeptides
  • Fenfluramine
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Corticosterone