The goal of this study is to examine the expression pattern of orexigenic peptides, orexin (OX) and melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH), in the perifornical lateral hypothalamus (PFLH) in subpopulations of Sprague-Dawley rats differing in their propensity to overconsume a high-fat diet. Immediately after an initial 5-day screening test that predicts long-term consumption, rats identified as high-fat consumers (HFC), ingesting 35% more calories of a high-fat relative to low-fat chow diet, had significantly elevated mRNA expression of OX in the perifornical but not lateral hypothalamic area and of MCH mRNA in both areas, when compared to control rats that consume similar amounts of these diets. This same OX and MCH expression pattern was seen in HFC rats maintained for two weeks on a low-fat chow diet, indicating that increased expression of these orexigenic peptides, occurring independently of the high-fat diet, may be an inherent characteristic of these rats. These HFC rats were also more active and slightly more anxious than controls, as measured by line crossings and time spent in the periphery or middle segments of an open field. Together, these results demonstrate that animals prone to overeating a high-fat diet show a baseline increase in orexigenic peptide expression in the PFLH along with higher behavioral arousal, which together may contribute to their increased consummatory behavior.
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