It is well established that under fasting conditions the expression of the orexigenic neuropeptide agouti-related peptide (AGRP) is up-regulated in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARC), while inconsistent data exist regarding fasting regulation of the anorexigenic neurohormone proopiomelanocortin (POMC). Inconsistencies might have methodological reasons, especially concerning neuromorphological and/or experimental (nutritional) specificity. We analyzed the expression of both neuropeptides in ARC neurons, using lasercapture microdissection (LMD) and real-time PCR in 12h fasted vs. fed Wistar rats as well as after a standardized glucose load, i.e., under clinically relevant conditions in terms of diagnosing glucose intolerance in the human. Under fasting conditions, clear up-regulation of AGRP was observed, with increasing magnitude in ARC single neurons (SNP) as compared to ARC cell layers (+125% vs. +23%, resp.), closely correlated to hypoinsulinemia and hypoleptinemia. Surprisingly, in the fasting state POMC was not found to be down-regulated, neither in ARC cell layers nor in ARC single neurons (+9% vs. +6%). However, glucose-refeeding under diagnostically relevant conditions led to strong neuronal up-regulation of POMC expression in ARC SNP (+128%), and AGRP down-regulation (-50%). In conclusion, experimentally, topographically, and analytically specific and standardized conditions confirmed AGRP in ARC neurons as being neuronally up- and down-regulated, resp., depending on the general nutritional state, while POMC was found to be (up-) regulated only after peripheral glucose load. Findings suggest that POMC in ARC neurons acts glucose-mediated as an "anti-orexigenic" neurohormone, specifically responding to hyperglycemia.
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