Dopamine Signaling in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus Enables Weight Gain Associated with Hedonic Feeding

Curr Biol. 2020 Jan 20;30(2):196-208.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.11.029. Epub 2020 Jan 2.


The widespread availability of energy-dense, rewarding foods is correlated with the increased incidence of obesity across the globe. Overeating during mealtimes and unscheduled snacking disrupts timed metabolic processes, which further contribute to weight gain. The neuronal mechanism by which the consumption of energy-dense food restructures the timing of feeding is poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that dopaminergic signaling within the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the central circadian pacemaker, disrupts the timing of feeding, resulting in overconsumption of food. D1 dopamine receptor (Drd1)-null mice are resistant to diet-induced obesity, metabolic disease, and circadian disruption associated with energy-dense diets. Conversely, genetic rescue of Drd1 expression within the SCN restores diet-induced overconsumption, weight gain, and obesogenic symptoms. Access to rewarding food increases SCN dopamine turnover, and elevated Drd1-signaling decreases SCN neuronal activity, which we posit disinhibits downstream orexigenic responses. These findings define a connection between the reward and circadian pathways in the regulation of pathological calorie consumption.

Keywords: Circadian; Dopamine; Dopamine receptor; Feeding; Meal time; Nucleus Accumbens; Obesity; Palatable food; Suprachiasmatic Nucleus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Eating
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Gene Expression
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Random Allocation
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / metabolism
  • Reward
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / physiology*
  • Weight Gain / genetics
  • Weight Gain / physiology*


  • Drd1 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1
  • Dopamine