Critical role of lateral habenula circuits in the control of stress-induced palatable food consumption

Neuron. 2023 Aug 16;111(16):2583-2600.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2023.05.010. Epub 2023 Jun 8.


Chronic stress fuels the consumption of palatable food and can enhance obesity development. While stress- and feeding-controlling pathways have been identified, how stress-induced feeding is orchestrated remains unknown. Here, we identify lateral habenula (LHb) Npy1r-expressing neurons as the critical node for promoting hedonic feeding under stress, since lack of Npy1r in these neurons alleviates the obesifying effects caused by combined stress and high fat feeding (HFDS) in mice. Mechanistically, this is due to a circuit originating from central amygdala NPY neurons, with the upregulation of NPY induced by HFDS initiating a dual inhibitory effect via Npy1r signaling onto LHb and lateral hypothalamus neurons, thereby reducing the homeostatic satiety effect through action on the downstream ventral tegmental area. Together, these results identify LHb-Npy1r neurons as a critical node to adapt the response to chronic stress by driving palatable food intake in an attempt to overcome the negative valence of stress.

Keywords: DREADD; Npy; Npy1r; TRAP sequencing; lateral habenula; obesity; optogenetics; palatable food intake; stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Habenula* / physiology
  • Hypothalamic Area, Lateral
  • Mice
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Ventral Tegmental Area