Obesity imposes a global health threat and calls for safe and effective therapeutic options. Here, we found that protein-rich diet significantly reduced body fat storage in fruit flies, which was largely attributed to dietary cysteine intake. Mechanistically, dietary cysteine increased the production of a neuropeptide FMRFamide (FMRFa). Enhanced FMRFa activity simultaneously promoted energy expenditure and suppressed food intake through its cognate receptor (FMRFaR), both contributing to the fat loss effect. In the fat body, FMRFa signaling promoted lipolysis by increasing PKA and lipase activity. In sweet-sensing gustatory neurons, FMRFa signaling suppressed appetitive perception and hence food intake. We also demonstrated that dietary cysteine worked in a similar way in mice via neuropeptide FF (NPFF) signaling, a mammalian RFamide peptide. In addition, dietary cysteine or FMRFa/NPFF administration provided protective effect against metabolic stress in flies and mice without behavioral abnormalities. Therefore, our study reveals a novel target for the development of safe and effective therapies against obesity and related metabolic diseases.
© 2023. The Author(s).