RhoA in tyrosine hydroxylase neurones regulates food intake and body weight via altered sensitivity to peripheral hormones

J Neuroendocrinol. 2019 Jul;31(7):e12761. doi: 10.1111/jne.12761.


Dopamine-producing tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) neurones in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARC) have recently been shown to be involved in ghrelin signalling and body weight homeostasis. In the present study, we investigate the role of the intracellular regulator RhoA in hypothalamic TH neurones in response to peripheral hormones. Diet-induced obesity was found to be associated with increased phosphorylation of TH in ARC, indicating obesity-associated increased activity of ARC TH neurones. Mice in which RhoA was specifically knocked out in TH neurones (TH-RhoA-/- mice) were more sensitive to the orexigenic effect of peripherally administered ghrelin and displayed an abolished response to the anorexigenic hormone leptin. When TH-RhoA-/- mice were challenged with a high-fat high-sucrose (HFHS) diet, they became hyperphagic and gained more body weight and fat mass compared to wild-type control mice. Importantly, lack of RhoA prevented development of ghrelin resistance, which is normally observed in wild-type mice after long-term HFHS diet feeding. Patch-clamp electrophysiological analysis demonstrated increased ghrelin-induced excitability of TH neurones in lean TH-RhoA-/- mice compared to lean littermate control animals. Additionally, increased expression of the orexigenic hypothalamic neuropeptides agouti-related peptide and neuropeptide Y was observed in TH-RhoA-/- mice. Overall, our data indicate that TH neurones in ARC are important for the regulation of body weight homeostasis and that RhoA is both a central effector in these neurones and important for the development of obesity-induced ghrelin resistance. The obese phenotype of TH-RhoA-/- mice may be a result of increased sensitivity to ghrelin and decreased sensitivity to leptin, resulting in increased food intake.

Keywords: RhoA; food intake; ghrelin; leptin; obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arcuate Nucleus of Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Body Weight*
  • Eating*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Ghrelin / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism*
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein / genetics
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism*


  • Ghrelin
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • RhoA protein, mouse
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein