The FDA-approved glucagon-like-peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists exendin-4 and liraglutide reduce food intake and body weight. Nausea is the most common adverse side effect reported with these GLP-1R agonists. Whether food intake suppression by exendin-4 and liraglutide occurs independently of nausea is unknown. Further, the neurophysiological mechanisms mediating the nausea associated with peripheral GLP-1R agonist use are poorly understood. Using two established rodent models of nausea [conditioned taste avoidance (CTA) and pica (ingestion of nonnutritive substances)], results show that all peripheral doses of exendin-4 that suppress food intake also produce CTA, whereas one dose of liraglutide suppresses intake without producing CTA. Chronic (12 days) daily peripheral administration of exendin-4 produces a progressive increase in pica coupled with stable, sustained food intake and body weight suppression, whereas the pica response and food intake reduction by daily liraglutide are more transient. Results demonstrate that the nausea response accompanying peripheral exendin-4 occurs via a vagal-independent pathway involving GLP-1R activation in the brain as the exendin-4-induced pica response is attenuated with CNS co-administration of the GLP-1R antagonist exendin-(9-39), but not by vagotomy. Direct administration of exendin-4 to the medial subnucleus of the nucleus tractus solitarius (mNTS), but not to the central nucleus of the amygdala, reduced food intake and produced a pica response, establishing the mNTS as a potential GLP-1R-expressing site mediating nausea responses associated with GLP-1R agonists.
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