Heparin Increases Food Intake through AgRP Neurons

Cell Rep. 2017 Sep 5;20(10):2455-2467. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.08.049.


Although the widely used anticoagulant drug heparin has been shown to have many other biological functions independent of its anticoagulant role, its effects on energy homeostasis are unknown. Here, we demonstrate that heparin level is negatively associated with nutritional states and that heparin treatment increases food intake and body weight gain. By using electrophysiological, pharmacological, molecular biological, and chemogenetic approaches, we provide evidence that heparin increases food intake by stimulating AgRP neurons and increasing AgRP release. Our results support a model whereby heparin competes with insulin for insulin receptor binding on AgRP neurons, and by doing so it inhibits FoxO1 activity to promote AgRP release and feeding. Heparin may be a potential drug target for food intake regulation and body weight control.

Keywords: AgRP; food intake; heparin; insulin receptor.

MeSH terms

  • Agouti-Related Protein / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Eating / drug effects*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Forkhead Box Protein O1 / metabolism
  • Heparin / pharmacology*
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Receptor, Insulin / metabolism*


  • Agouti-Related Protein
  • Forkhead Box Protein O1
  • Insulin
  • Heparin
  • Receptor, Insulin