Dopamine D2 receptor overexpression in the nucleus accumbens core induces robust weight loss during scheduled fasting selectively in female mice

Mol Psychiatry. 2021 Aug;26(8):3765-3777. doi: 10.1038/s41380-019-0633-8. Epub 2019 Dec 20.


Anorexia nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder observed predominantly in women and girls that is characterized by a low body-mass index, hypophagia, and hyperactivity. Activity-based anorexia (ABA), which refers to the weight loss, hypophagia, and hyperactivity exhibited by rodents exposed to both running wheels and scheduled fasting, provides a model for aspects of AN. Increased dopamine D2/D3 receptor binding in the anteroventral striatum has been reported in AN patients. We virally overexpressed D2Rs on nucleus accumbens core (D2R-OENAc) neurons that endogenously express D2Rs, and tested mice of both sexes in the open field test, ABA paradigm, and intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test (IGTT). D2R-OENAc did not alter baseline body weight, but increased locomotor activity in the open field across both sexes. During constant access to food and running wheels, D2R-OENAc mice of both sexes increased food intake and ran more than controls. However, when food was available only 7 h a day, only female D2R-OENAc mice rapidly lost 25% of their initial body weight, reduced food intake, and substantially increased wheel running. Surprisingly, female D2R-OENAc mice also rapidly lost 25% of their initial body weight during scheduled fasting without wheel access and showed no changes in food intake. In contrast, male D2R-OENAc mice maintained body weight during scheduled fasting. D2R-OENAc mice of both sexes also showed glucose intolerance in the IGTT. In conclusion, D2R-OENAc alters glucose metabolism in both sexes but drives robust weight loss only in females during scheduled fasting, implicating metabolic mechanisms in this sexually dimorphic effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Motor Activity*
  • Nucleus Accumbens* / metabolism
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2* / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2* / metabolism
  • Weight Loss*


  • DRD2 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2