Hypothalamic inflammation in the control of metabolic function

Annu Rev Physiol. 2015;77:131-60. doi: 10.1146/annurev-physiol-021014-071656.


Diet-induced obesity leads to devastating and common chronic diseases, fueling ongoing interest in determining new mechanisms underlying both obesity and its consequences. It is now well known that chronic overnutrition produces a unique form of inflammation in peripheral insulin target tissues, and efforts to limit this inflammation have met with some success in preserving insulin sensitivity in obese individuals. Recently, the activation of inflammatory pathways by dietary excess has also been observed among cells located in the mediobasal hypothalamus, a brain area that exerts central control over peripheral glucose, fat, and energy metabolism. Here we review progress in the field of diet-induced hypothalamic inflammation, drawing key distinctions between metabolic inflammation in the hypothalamus and that occurring in peripheral tissues. We focus on specific stimuli of the inflammatory response, the roles of individual hypothalamic cell types, and the links between hypothalamic inflammation and metabolic function under normal and pathophysiological circumstances. Finally, we explore the concept of controlling hypothalamic inflammation to mitigate metabolic disease.

Keywords: astrocytes; cytokines; fatty acids; leptin; microglia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / pathology
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Metabolic Diseases / physiopathology
  • Metabolism / physiology*
  • Microglia / physiology
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology