Hypothalamic dopamine signaling regulates brown fat thermogenesis

Nat Metab. 2019 Aug;1(8):811-829. doi: 10.1038/s42255-019-0099-7. Epub 2019 Aug 19.


Dopamine signaling is a crucial part of the brain reward system and can affect feeding behavior. Dopamine receptors are also expressed in the hypothalamus, which is known to control energy metabolism in peripheral tissues. Here we show that pharmacological or chemogenetic stimulation of dopamine receptor 2 (D2R) expressing cells in the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) and the zona incerta (ZI) decreases body weight and stimulates brown fat activity in rodents in a feeding-independent manner. LHA/ZI D2R stimulation requires an intact sympathetic nervous system and orexin system to exert its action and involves inhibition of PI3K in the LHA/ZI. We further demonstrate that, as early as 3 months after onset of treatment, patients treated with the D2R agonist cabergoline experience an increase in energy expenditure that persists for one year, leading to total body weight and fat loss through a prolactin-independent mechanism. Our results may provide a mechanistic explanation for how clinically used D2R agonists act in the CNS to regulate energy balance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Bromocriptine / administration & dosage
  • Bromocriptine / pharmacology
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / drug effects
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Injections, Intraventricular
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Thermogenesis / physiology*


  • Bromocriptine
  • Dopamine