Basal Ganglia Dysfunction Contributes to Physical Inactivity in Obesity

Cell Metab. 2017 Feb 7;25(2):312-321. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2016.12.001. Epub 2016 Dec 29.


Obesity is associated with physical inactivity, which exacerbates the health consequences of weight gain. However, the mechanisms that mediate this association are unknown. We hypothesized that deficits in dopamine signaling contribute to physical inactivity in obesity. To investigate this, we quantified multiple aspects of dopamine signaling in lean and obese mice. We found that D2-type receptor (D2R) binding in the striatum, but not D1-type receptor binding or dopamine levels, was reduced in obese mice. Genetically removing D2Rs from striatal medium spiny neurons was sufficient to reduce motor activity in lean mice, whereas restoring Gi signaling in these neurons increased activity in obese mice. Surprisingly, although mice with low D2Rs were less active, they were not more vulnerable to diet-induced weight gain than control mice. We conclude that deficits in striatal D2R signaling contribute to physical inactivity in obesity, but inactivity is more a consequence than a cause of obesity.

Keywords: D2; dopamine; exercise; obese; obesity; physical activity; striatum; weight loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / metabolism
  • Basal Ganglia / physiopathology*
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism
  • Corpus Striatum / physiopathology
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese
  • Movement
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Protein Binding
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / metabolism
  • Weight Gain


  • Receptors, Dopamine D2