Genetic identification of a neural circuit that suppresses appetite

Nature. 2013 Nov 7;503(7474):111-4. doi: 10.1038/nature12596. Epub 2013 Oct 13.


Appetite suppression occurs after a meal and in conditions when it is unfavourable to eat, such as during illness or exposure to toxins. A brain region proposed to play a role in appetite suppression is the parabrachial nucleus, a heterogeneous population of neurons surrounding the superior cerebellar peduncle in the brainstem. The parabrachial nucleus is thought to mediate the suppression of appetite induced by the anorectic hormones amylin and cholecystokinin, as well as by lithium chloride and lipopolysaccharide, compounds that mimic the effects of toxic foods and bacterial infections, respectively. Hyperactivity of the parabrachial nucleus is also thought to cause starvation after ablation of orexigenic agouti-related peptide neurons in adult mice. However, the identities of neurons in the parabrachial nucleus that regulate feeding are unknown, as are the functionally relevant downstream projections. Here we identify calcitonin gene-related peptide-expressing neurons in the outer external lateral subdivision of the parabrachial nucleus that project to the laterocapsular division of the central nucleus of the amygdala as forming a functionally important circuit for suppressing appetite. Using genetically encoded anatomical, optogenetic and pharmacogenetic tools, we demonstrate that activation of these neurons projecting to the central nucleus of the amygdala suppresses appetite. In contrast, inhibition of these neurons increases food intake in circumstances when mice do not normally eat and prevents starvation in adult mice whose agouti-related peptide neurons are ablated. Taken together, our data demonstrate that this neural circuit from the parabrachial nucleus to the central nucleus of the amygdala mediates appetite suppression in conditions when it is unfavourable to eat. This neural circuit may provide targets for therapeutic intervention to overcome or promote appetite.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / anatomy & histology
  • Amygdala / cytology
  • Amygdala / drug effects
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Animals
  • Appetite / drug effects
  • Appetite / genetics*
  • Appetite / physiology*
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Eating / genetics
  • Eating / physiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neural Pathways / drug effects
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Optogenetics
  • Pons / anatomy & histology
  • Pons / cytology
  • Pons / drug effects
  • Pons / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Satiety Response / drug effects
  • Satiety Response / physiology*
  • Starvation / drug therapy


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide