Glucagon-like-peptide-1 (GLP-1) and its long acting analogs comprise a novel class of type 2 diabetes (T2D) treatment. What makes them unique among other T2D drugs is their concurrent ability to reduce food intake, a great benefit considering the frequent comorbidity of T2D and obesity. The precise neural site of action underlying this beneficial effect is vigorously researched. In accordance with the classical model of food intake control GLP-1 action on feeding has been primarily ascribed to receptor populations in the hypothalamus and the hindbrain. In contrast to this common view, relevant GLP-1 receptor populations are distributed more widely, with a prominent mesolimbic complement emerging. The physiological relevance of the mesolimbic GLP-1 is suggested by the demonstration that similar anorexic effects can be obtained by independent stimulation of the mesolimbic and hypothalamic GLP-1 receptors (GLP-1R). Results reviewed here support the idea that mesolimbic GLP-1R are sufficient to reduce hunger-driven feeding, the hedonic value of food and food-motivation. In parallel, emerging evidence suggests that the range of action of GLP-1 on reward behavior is not limited to food-derived reward but extends to cocaine, amphetamine, and alcohol reward. The new discoveries concerning GLP-1 action on the mesolimbic reward system significantly extend the potential therapeutic range of this drug target.
Keywords: GLP-1; dopamine; ethanol reward; exendin 9–39; food reward; gut peptides; liraglutide; ventral tegmental area.