Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


How appetite-stimulating brain cells work overtime during fasting

During periods of fasting, brain cells responsible for stimulating the appetite make sure that you stay hungry. Now, a new study of mice reported in the January issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, published by Cell Press, reveals the complex series of molecular events that keep those neurons active.

The researchers revealed a link between active thyroid hormone in the brain and increases in an "uncoupling" protein (UCP2) that boosts the number of power-generating mitochondria in neurons that drive hunger. The increase in mitochondria, in turn, allows the brain's hunger center to remain active when periods of food scarcity result in a "negative energy balance," said Sabrina Diano of Yale University School of Medicine, who led the study.

Indeed, the researchers found, animals lacking either UCP2 or an enzyme that stimulates thyroid hormone's production ate less than normal after a period of food deprivation.

"This shows the key importance of UCP in the brain and its effect on neuronal activity," Diano said. "It's how neurons 'learn' that food is missing, and it keeps them ready to eat when food is introduced."

The mechanism involved is very similar to the one that regulates core body temperature in peripheral body tissues, Diano added.

Thyroid hormones are known to play major roles during development as well as in adulthood, the researchers said. In adults, the thyroid gland is essential to regulating metabolism. Previous studies had also established a key physiological role for the active thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine (T3), in the regulation of body temperature by heat-generating brown fat.

The molecular underpinning of heat production, or thermogenesis, in brown fat is the activation of mitochondrial uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) by T3, the researchers said. The UCP1 activation, which is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, also leads to an increase in the number of mitochondria.

The role of the related protein, UCP2, which is present at high levels in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus--considered to be the key brain site that responds to changes in peripheral tissue metabolism--had remained less clear. However, scientists did know that that portion of the brain harbors thyroid hormone receptors and has the capacity for local production of T3.

Now, the researchers found that support cells in the hypothalamus producing an enzyme that catalyzes active thyroid hormone production are side by side with appetite-stimulating neurons that express UCP2. In mice that were fasted for 24 hours, the arcuate nucleus showed an increase in the "DII" enzyme's activity and local thyroid production, in parallel with increased UCP2 activity.

This fasting-induced, T3-mediated UCP2 activation resulted in mitochondrial proliferation in the neurons, an event that was critical for the brain cells' increased excitability and consequent rebound feeding by the animals following food deprivation.

"Our results indicate that this mechanism is critical in sustaining an increased firing rate in these [hunger-stimulating] cells so that appetite remains elevated during fasting," Diano's group concluded. "Overall, our study provides strong evidence for an interplay between local T3 production and UCP2 during fasting and reveals a central thermogenic-like mechanism in the regulation of food intake."

While it is as yet unproven, the rise in UCP2 in the brain likely also causes changes in temperature in the same way that UCP1 does in brown fat, Diano said.

"It's possible that heat may act like a neurotransmitter of a sort," Diano said. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that relay signals to and from neurons. "Changes in temperature could have a strong effect on brain function."

The findings emphasize the complexity of the feeding circuitry, which once "seemed so simple," wrote Charles Mobbs of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in an accompanying preview article. Researchers had thought that decreased levels of the fat-produced hormone leptin alone signaled the hypothalamus that fat levels have fallen, leading hypothalamic neurons to activate a program, including hunger, to preserve energy and restore fat levels, he said.

Now, "a series of studies, including those reported in this issue of Cell Metabolism by [Diano and colleagues] have elegantly demonstrated that hypothalamic responses to food deprivation involve at least three hormones, two cell types, and an unexpected interlocutor, uncoupling protein 2."

Erin Doonan | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>