Cerebral markers of the serotonergic system in rat models of obesity and after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Oct;20(10):2133-41. doi: 10.1038/oby.2012.75. Epub 2012 Mar 26.


Food intake and body weight are regulated by a complex system of neural and hormonal signals, of which the anorexigenic neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT) is central. In this study, rat models of obesity and weight loss intervention were compared with regard to several 5-HT markers. Using receptor autoradiography, brain regional-densities of the serotonin transporter (SERT) and the 5-HT(2A) and 5-HT(4) receptors were measured in (i) selectively bred polygenic diet-induced obese (pgDIO) rats, (ii) outbred DIO rats, and (iii) Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB)-operated rats. pgDIO rats had higher 5-HT(4) and 5-HT(2A) receptor binding and lower SERT binding when compared to polygenic diet-resistant (pgDR) rats. The most pronounced difference between pgDIO and pgDR rats was observed in the nucleus accumbens shell (NAcS), a brain region regulating reward aspects of feeding. No differences were found in the 5-HT markers between DIO rats, chow-fed control rats, and DIO rats experiencing a weight loss. The 5-HT markers were also similar in RYGB and sham-operated rats except for a downregulation of 5-HT(2A) receptors in the NAcS. The higher receptor and lower SERT binding in pgDIO as compared to pgDR rats corresponds to what is reported in overweight humans and suggests that the dysfunctions of the 5-HT system associated with overeating or propensity to become overweight are polygenically determined. Our results support that the obesity-prone rat model has high translational value and suggests that susceptibility to develop obesity is associated with changed 5-HT tone in the brain that may also regulate hedonic aspects of feeding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Body Weight
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Eating
  • Gastric Bypass*
  • Male
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / surgery
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A / metabolism
  • Receptors, Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT1 / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation
  • Weight Loss


  • Biomarkers
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Receptors, Serotonin, 5-HT1