A synaptic amplifier of hunger for regaining body weight in the hypothalamus

Cell Metab. 2023 May 2;35(5):770-785.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2023.03.002. Epub 2023 Mar 24.


Restricting caloric intake effectively reduces body weight, but most dieters fail long-term adherence to caloric deficit and eventually regain lost weight. Hypothalamic circuits that control hunger drive critically determine body weight; yet, how weight loss sculpts these circuits to motivate food consumption until lost weight is regained remains unclear. Here, we probe the contribution of synaptic plasticity in discrete excitatory afferents on hunger-promoting AgRP neurons. We reveal a crucial role for activity-dependent, remarkably long-lasting amplification of synaptic activity originating from paraventricular hypothalamus thyrotropin-releasing (PVHTRH) neurons in long-term body weight control. Silencing PVHTRH neurons inhibits the potentiation of excitatory input to AgRP neurons and diminishes concomitant regain of lost weight. Brief stimulation of the pathway is sufficient to enduringly potentiate this glutamatergic hunger synapse and triggers an NMDAR-dependent gaining of body weight that enduringly persists. Identification of this activity-dependent synaptic amplifier provides a previously unrecognized target to combat regain of lost weight.

Keywords: AgRP neurons; TRH-expressing neurons; chemogenetics; electrophysiology; hunger drive; hypothalamus; intersectional genetics; optogenetics; synaptic plasticity; weight regain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Agouti-Related Protein / metabolism
  • Body Weight
  • Humans
  • Hunger* / physiology
  • Hypothalamus* / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism


  • Agouti-Related Protein