Although it has been known for more than a century that the brain controls overall energy balance and adiposity by regulating feeding behavior and energy expenditure, the roles for individual brain regions and neuronal subtypes were not fully understood until recently. This area of research is active, and as such our understanding of the central regulation of energy balance is continually being refined as new details emerge. Much of what we now know stems from the discoveries of leptin and the hypothalamic melanocortin system. Hypothalamic circuits play a crucial role in the control of feeding and energy expenditure, and within the hypothalamus, the arcuate nucleus (ARC) functions as a gateway for hormonal signals of energy balance, such as leptin. It is also well established that the ARC is a primary residence for hypothalamic melanocortinergic neurons. The paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVH) receives direct melanocortin input, along with other integrated signals that affect energy balance, and mediates the majority of hypothalamic output to control both feeding and energy expenditure. Herein, we review in detail the structure and function of the ARC-PVH circuit in mediating leptin signaling and in regulating energy balance.
Keywords: NOS1; PVH; brain stem; feeding; hypothalamus; leptin; melanocortins; neuropeptides; obesity.