Hyperphagia in cold-exposed rats is accompanied by decreased plasma leptin but unchanged hypothalamic NPY

Am J Physiol. 1998 Jan;274(1):R62-8. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1998.274.1.R62.


Chronic cold exposure stimulates sympathetically driven thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue (BAT), resulting in fat mobilization, weight loss, and compensatory hyperphagia. Hypothalamic neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurons are implicated in stimulating food intake in starvation, but may also suppress sympathetic outflow to BAT. This study investigated whether the NPY neurons drive hyperphagia in rats that have lost weight through cold exposure. Rats exposed to 4 degrees C for 21 days weighed 14% less than controls maintained at 22 degrees C (P < 0.001). Food intake increased after 3 days and remained 10% higher thereafter (P < 0.001). Increase BAT activity was confirmed by 64, 96, and 335% increases in uncoupling protein-1 mRNA at 2, 8, and 21 days. Plasma leptin decreased during prolonged cold exposure. Cold-exposed rats showed no significant changes in NPY concentrations in any hypothalamic regions or in hypothalamic NPY mRNA at any time. We conclude that the NPY neurons are not activated during cold exposure. This is in contrast with starvation-induced hyperphagia, but is biologically appropriate since enhanced NPY release would inhibit thermogenesis causing potentially lethal hypothermia. Other neuronal pathways must therefore mediate hyperphagia in chronic cold exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization*
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Body Weight
  • Cold Temperature
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Hyperphagia / physiopathology*
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology*
  • Leptin
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neuropeptide Y / biosynthesis
  • Neuropeptide Y / metabolism*
  • Obesity
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Leptin
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger