Long-Term Energy Deficit in Mice Causes Long-Lasting Hypothalamic Alterations after Recovery

Neuroendocrinology. 2017;105(4):372-383. doi: 10.1159/000455048. Epub 2016 Dec 23.


Although the short-term effects of fasting or energy deficit on hypothalamic neuropeptide circuitries are now better understood, the effects of long-term energy deficit and refeeding remain to be elucidated. We showed that after a long-term energy deficit, mice exhibited persistent hypoleptinemia following the refeeding period despite restoration of fat mass, ovarian activity, and feeding behavior. We aimed to examine the hypothalamic adaptations after 10 weeks of energy deficit and after 10 further weeks of nutritional recovery. To do so, we assessed the mRNA levels of the leptin receptor and the main orexigenic and anorexigenic peptides, and their receptors regulated by leptin. Markers of hypothalamic inflammation were assessed as leptin can also participate in this phenomenon. Long-term time-restricted feeding and separation induced significant increase in mRNA levels of hypothalamic orexigenic peptides, while both Y1 and Y5 receptor mRNAs were downregulated. No changes occurred in the mRNA levels of orexin (OX), melanin-concentrating hormone, pro-opiomelanocortin, 26RFa (26-amino acid RF-amide peptide), and their receptors despite an increase in the expression of melanocortin receptors (MC3-R and MC4-R) and OXR1 (OX receptor 1). The refeeding period induced an overexpression of leptin receptor mRNA in the hypothalamus. The other assessed mRNA levels were normalized except for Y2, Y5, MC3-R, and MC4-R, which remained upregulated. No convincing changes were observed in neuroinflammatory markers, even if interleukin-1β mRNA levels were increased in parallel with those of Iba1 (ionized calcium-binding adaptor molecule 1), a marker of microglial activation. Normalization of leptin-regulated functions and hypothalamic gene expressions in refed mice with low plasma leptin levels could be sustained by recalibration of hypothalamic sensitivity to leptin.

Keywords: Animal model; Anorexia nervosa; Anorexigenic peptides; Hypothalamus; Leptin; Long-term energy deficit; Orexigenic peptides; Refeeding.

MeSH terms

  • Agouti-Related Protein / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hypolipoproteinemias / blood
  • Hypolipoproteinemias / pathology*
  • Hypothalamic Hormones
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Leptin / metabolism*
  • Melanins
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neuropeptide Y / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Orexins / genetics
  • Orexins / metabolism
  • Pituitary Hormones
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptors, Leptin / genetics
  • Receptors, Leptin / metabolism
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide / genetics
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide / metabolism


  • Agouti-Related Protein
  • Agrp protein, mouse
  • Cytokines
  • Hypothalamic Hormones
  • Leptin
  • Melanins
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Neuropeptides
  • Orexins
  • Pituitary Hormones
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Leptin
  • Receptors, Neuropeptide
  • melanin-concentrating hormone