GDF15 Induces an Aversive Visceral Malaise State that Drives Anorexia and Weight Loss

Cell Rep. 2020 Apr 21;31(3):107543. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107543.


The anorectic and weight-suppressive effects of growth differentiation factor-15 (GDF15) are attracting considerable attention for treating obesity. Current experiments in rats investigate whether GDF15 induces an aversive visceral malaise-based state that mediates its acute anorectic effect and, through aversion conditioning, exerts longer-term anorexia. Visceral malaise, conditioned affective food responses (taste reactivity), gastric emptying (GE), food intake, and body weight are evaluated after acute and chronic systemic dosing of GDF15 or long-acting Fc-GDF15. Pica, a marker of visceral malaise, is present at all anorectic GDF15 doses. Moreover, malaise induced by GDF15 does not decline over time, suggesting the lack of an improved tolerance after prolonged exposure. One association between GDF15 and novel food conditions a disgust/aversive response that persists beyond GDF15 acute action. Delayed GE is not a requirement for GDF15-induced anorexia. Clinical studies are required to evaluate whether GDF15's aversive-state-based anorexia will be contraindicated as an obesity treatment.

Keywords: GFRAL; MIC-1; PBN; affective response to food; food aversion conditioning; gastric emptying; hindbrain; pica; taste reactivity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anorexia / chemically induced*
  • Anorexia / metabolism
  • Anorexia / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Growth Differentiation Factor 15 / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recombinant Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Weight Loss / drug effects*


  • GDF15 protein, human
  • Growth Differentiation Factor 15
  • Recombinant Proteins