Dorsal vagal complex and hypothalamic glia differentially respond to leptin and energy balance dysregulation

Transl Psychiatry. 2020 Mar 9;10(1):90. doi: 10.1038/s41398-020-0767-0.


Previous studies identify a role for hypothalamic glia in energy balance regulation; however, a narrow hypothalamic focus provides an incomplete understanding of how glia throughout the brain respond to and regulate energy homeostasis. We examined the responses of glia in the dorsal vagal complex (DVC) to the adipokine leptin and high fat diet-induced obesity. DVC astrocytes functionally express the leptin receptor; in vivo pharmacological studies suggest that DVC astrocytes partly mediate the anorectic effects of leptin in lean but not diet-induced obese rats. Ex vivo calcium imaging indicated that these changes were related to a lower proportion of leptin-responsive cells in the DVC of obese versus lean animals. Finally, we investigated DVC microglia and astroglia responses to leptin and energy balance dysregulation in vivo: obesity decreased DVC astrogliosis, whereas the absence of leptin signaling in Zucker rats was associated with extensive astrogliosis in the DVC and decreased hypothalamic micro- and astrogliosis. These data uncover a novel functional heterogeneity of astrocytes in different brain nuclei of relevance to leptin signaling and energy balance regulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Hypothalamus* / metabolism
  • Leptin* / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Zucker


  • Leptin