Kappa opioid receptor activation increases thermogenic energy expenditure which drives increased feeding

iScience. 2023 Jun 28;26(7):107241. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2023.107241. eCollection 2023 Jul 21.


Opioid receptors, including the kappa opioid receptor (KOR), exert control over thermoregulation and feeding behavior. Notably, activation of KOR stimulates food intake, leading to postulation that KOR signaling plays a central role in managing energy intake. KOR has also been proposed as a target for treating obesity. Herein, we report studies examining how roles for KOR signaling in regulating thermogenesis, feeding, and energy balance may be interrelated using pharmacological interventions, genetic tools, quantitative thermal imaging, and metabolic profiling. Our findings demonstrate that activation of KOR in the central nervous system causes increased energy expenditure via brown adipose tissue activation. Importantly, pharmacologic, or genetic inhibition of brown adipose tissue thermogenesis prevented the elevated food intake triggered by KOR activation. Furthermore, our data reveal that KOR-mediated thermogenesis elevation is reversibly disrupted by chronic high-fat diet, implicating KOR signaling as a potential mediator in high-fat diet-induced weight gain.

Keywords: Cell biology; Endocrinology; Neuroscience.