Barbadin Potentiates Long-Term Effects of Lorcaserin on POMC Neurons and Weight Loss

J Neurosci. 2021 Jun 30;41(26):5734-5746. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3210-20.2021. Epub 2021 May 24.


Obesity is a serious global health problem because of its increasing prevalence and comorbidities, but its treatments are limited. The serotonin 2C receptor (5-HT2CR), a G-protein-coupled receptor, activates proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons in the arcuate nucleus of hypothalamus (ARH) to reduce appetite and weight gain. However, several 5-HT analogs targeting this receptor, e.g., lorcaserin (Lor), suffer from diminished efficacy to reduce weight after prolonged administration. Here, we show that barbadin (Bar), a novel β-arrestin/β2-adaptin inhibitor, can prevent 5-HT2CR internalization in cells and potentiate long-term effects of Lor to reduce appetite and body weight in male mice. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that Bar co-treatment can effectively maintain the sensitivity of the 5-HT2CR in POMCARH neurons, despite prolonged Lor exposure, thereby allowing these neurons to be activated through opening the transient receptor potential cation (TRPC) channels. Thus, our results prove the concept that inhibition of 5-HT2CR desensitization can be a valid strategy to improve the long-term weight loss effects of Lor or other 5-HT2CR agonists, and also provide an intellectual framework to develop effective long-term management of weight by targeting 5-HT2CR desensitization.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT By demonstrating that the combination of barbadin (Bar) with a G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) agonist can provide prolonged weight-lowering benefits in a preclinical setting, our work should call for additional efforts to validate Bar as a safe and effective medicine or to use Bar as a lead compound to develop more suitable compounds for obesity treatment. These results prove the concept that inhibition of serotonin 2C receptor (5-HT2CR) desensitization can be a valid strategy to improve the long-term weight loss effects of lorcaserin (Lor) or other 5-HT2CR agonists. Since GPCRs represent a major category as therapeutic targets for various human diseases and desensitization of GPCRs is a common issue, our work may provide a conceptual framework to enhance effects of a broad range of GPCR medicines.

Keywords: 5-HT 2C receptor; GPCR; food intake; hypothalamus; obesity.