Among its many functions, prolactin has been implicated in energy homeostasis, particularly during pregnancy and lactation. The arcuate nucleus is a key site in the regulation of energy balance. The present study aimed to examine whether arcuate nucleus neuronal populations involved in energy homeostasis are prolactin responsive and whether they can mediate the effects of prolactin on energy homeostasis. To determine whether Agrp neurones or Rip-Cre neurones are prolactin responsive, transgenic mice expressing the reporter td-tomato in Agrp neurones (td-tomato/Agrp-Cre) or Rip-Cre neurones (td-tomato/Rip-Cre) were treated with prolactin and perfused 45 minutes later. Brains were processed for double-labelled immunohistochemistry for pSTAT5, a marker of prolactin-induced intracellular signalling, and td-tomato. In addition, Agrp-Cre mice and Rip-Cre mice were crossed with mice in which the prolactin receptor gene (Prlr) was flanked with LoxP sites (Prlrlox/lox mice). The Prlrlox/lox construct was designed such that Cre-mediated recombination resulted in deletion of the Prlr and expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) in its place. In td-tomato/Rip-Cre mice, prolactin-induced pSTAT5 was co-localised with td-tomato, indicating that there is a subpopulation of Rip-Cre neurones in the arcuate nucleus that respond to prolactin. Furthermore, mice with a specific deletion of Prlr in Rip-Cre neurones had lower body weights, increased oxygen consumption, increased running wheel activity and numerous cells in the arcuate nucleus had positive GFP staining indicating deletion of Prlr from Rip-Cre neurones. By contrast, no co-localisation of td-tomato and pSTAT5 was observed in td-tomato/Agrp-Cre mice after prolactin treatment. Moreover, Prlrlox/lox /Agrp-Cre mice had no positive GFP staining in the arcuate nucleus and did not differ in body weight compared to littermate controls. Overall, these results indicate that Rip-Cre neurones in the arcuate nucleus are responsive to prolactin and may play a role in the orexigenic effects of prolactin, whereas prolactin does not directly affect Agrp neurones.
Keywords: GABA; RIP-cre; arcuate nucleus; prolactin.
© 2017 British Society for Neuroendocrinology.