Nutrient sensing in the nucleus of the solitary tract mediates non-aversive suppression of feeding via inhibition of AgRP neurons

Mol Metab. 2020 Dec;42:101070. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2020.101070. Epub 2020 Sep 6.


The nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) is emerging as a major site of action for the appetite-suppressive effects of leading pharmacotherapies currently investigated to treat obesity. However, our understanding of how NTS neurons regulate appetite remains incomplete.

Objectives: In this study, we used NTS nutrient sensing as an entry point to characterize stimulus-defined neuronal ensembles engaged by the NTS to produce physiological satiety.

Methods: We combined histological analysis, neuroanatomical assessment using inducible viral tracing tools, and functional tests to characterize hindbrain-forebrain circuits engaged by NTS leucine sensing to suppress hunger.

Results: We found that NTS detection of leucine engages NTS prolactin-releasing peptide (PrRP) neurons to inhibit AgRP neurons via a population of leptin receptor-expressing neurons in the dorsomedial hypothalamus. This circuit is necessary for the anorectic response to NTS leucine, the appetite-suppressive effect of high-protein diets, and the long-term control of energy balance.

Conclusions: These results extend the integrative capability of AgRP neurons to include brainstem nutrient sensing inputs.

Keywords: AgRP neurons; Appetite; Hypothalamus; Metabolic diseases; Nucleus of the solitary tract; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agouti-Related Protein / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Appetite / physiology
  • Appetite Regulation / physiology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Leucine / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Obesity
  • Solitary Nucleus / metabolism
  • Solitary Nucleus / physiology*


  • Agouti-Related Protein
  • Agrp protein, mouse
  • Leptin
  • Leucine