Gastrointestinal hormone actions in the central regulation of energy metabolism: potential sensory roles for the circumventricular organs

Int J Obes (Lond). 2009 Apr:33 Suppl 1:S16-21. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.11.


A variety of circulating signals provide essential information to the central nervous system (CNS) regarding nutritional status. The gastrointestinal system produces many such molecules that are now known to have profound effects on feeding behavior and the control of metabolism as a consequence of their ability to regulate the neural circuitry involved in metabolic homeostasis. Although many of these substances have been suggested to directly access such brain centers, their lipophobic characteristics suggest that alternative mechanisms should be considered. In this paper, we consider one such alternative, namely, that a specialized group of CNS structures collectively known as the sensory circumventricular organs (CVOs), which are not protected by the normal blood-brain barrier, may play important roles in such blood to brain communications. Specifically, we review a developing literature that shows receptors for, and functional actions of, gastrointestinal hormones such as amylin, cholecystokinin, ghrelin and peptide YY in the area postrema and subfornical organ. Collectively, these observations suggest potentially significant roles for the sensory CVOs in the regulation of energy balance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines / metabolism
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology
  • Area Postrema / metabolism
  • Area Postrema / physiology*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology*
  • Body Weight
  • Cholecystokinin / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Gastrointestinal Hormones / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Hormones / physiology*
  • Ghrelin / metabolism
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / metabolism
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Peptide Hormones / metabolism
  • Peptide Hormones / physiology*
  • Peptide YY / metabolism
  • Satiation / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Subfornical Organ / metabolism
  • Subfornical Organ / physiology*


  • Adipokines
  • Gastrointestinal Hormones
  • Ghrelin
  • Peptide Hormones
  • Peptide YY
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1
  • Cholecystokinin