The melanocortin-3 (MC3R) and melanocortin-4 (MC4R) receptors are expressed in the brain and are implicated in the regulation of food intake and energy homeostasis. The endogenous agonist ligands for these receptors (?-, ?-, ?-MSH and ACTH) are linear peptides with limited receptor subtype selectivity and metabolic stability, thus minimizing their use as probes to characterize the overlapping pharmacological and physiological functions of the melanocortin receptor subtypes. In the present study, an engineered template, in which the peptide backbone was modified by a heterocyclic reverse turn mimetic at the Trp(7) residue, was synthesized using solid phase peptide synthesis and characterized by a ?-galactosidase cAMP based reporter gene assay. The functional assay identified a ?5 nM mouse MC4R agonist (AST3-88) with more than 50-fold selectivity over the mMC3R. Biophysical studies (2D (1)H NMR spectroscopy and molecular dynamics) of AST3-88 identified a type VIII ?-turn secondary structure spanning the pharmacophore domain stabilized by the intramolecular interactions between the side chains of the His and Trp residues. Enzymatic studies of AST3-88 revealed enhanced stability of AST3-88 over the ?-MSH endogenous peptide in rat serum. Upon central administration of AST3-88 into rats, a decreased food intake response was observed. This is the first study to probe the in vivo physiological activity of this engineered peptide-heterocycle template. These findings advance the present knowledge of pharmacophore design for potent, selective, and metabolically stable melanocortin ligands.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms in the fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) gene have been associated with obesity in humans. Alterations in Fto expression in transgenic animals affect body weight, energy expenditure and food intake. Fto, a nuclear protein and proposed transcription co-factor, has been speculated to affect energy balance through a functional relationship with specific genes encoding feeding-related peptides. Herein, we employed double immunohistochemistry and showed that the majority of neurons synthesizing a satiety mediator, oxytocin, coexpress Fto in the brain of male and female mice. We then overexpressed Fto in a murine hypothalamic cell line and, using qPCR, detected a 50% increase in the level of oxytocin mRNA. Expression levels of several other feeding-related genes, including neuropeptide Y (NPY) and Agouti-related protein (AgRP), were unaffected by the FTO transfection. Addition of 10 and 100 nmol oxytocin to the cell culture medium did not affect Fto expression in hypothalamic cells. We conclude that Fto, a proposed transcription co-factor, influences expression of the gene encoding a satiety mediator, oxytocin.
Melanin concentrating hormone (MCH) stimulates feeding driven by energy needs and reward and modifies anxiety behavior. Orexigenic peptides of similar characteristics, including nociceptin/orphanin FQ, Agouti-related protein and opioids, increase consumption also by reducing avoidance of potentially tainted food in animals displaying a conditioned taste aversion (CTA). Herein, using real-time PCR, we assessed whether expression levels of genes encoding MCH and its receptor, MCHR1, were affected in CTA in the rat. We also investigated whether injecting MCH intracerebroventricularly (ICV) during the acquisition and retrieval of LiCl-induced CTA, would alleviate aversive responses. MCHR1 gene was upregulated in the hypothalamus and brain stem of aversive animals, MCH mRNA was significantly higher in the hypothalamus, whereas a strong trend suggesting upregulation of MCH and MCHR1 genes was detected in the amygdala. Despite these expression changes associated with aversion, MCH injected prior to the induction of CTA with LiCl as well as later, during the CTA retrieval upon subsequent presentations of the aversive tastant, did not reduce the magnitude of CTA. We conclude that MCH and its receptor form an orexigenic system whose expression is affected in CTA. This altered MCH expression may contribute to tastant-targeted hypophagia in CTA. However, changing the MCH tone in the brain by exogenous peptide was insufficient to prevent the onset or facilitate extinction of LiCl-induced CTA. This designates MCH as one of many accessory molecules associated with shaping an aversive response, but not a critical one for LiCl-dependent CTA to occur.
Increased tone of orexigens mediating reward occurs upon repeated consumption of sweet foods. Interestingly, some of these reward orexigens, such as opioids, diminish activity of neurons synthesizing oxytocin, a nonapeptide that promotes satiety and feeding termination. It is not known, however, whether consumption-related activity of the central oxytocin system is modified under chronic sugar feeding reward itself. Therefore, we examined how chronic consumption of a rewarding high-sucrose (HS) vs. bland cornstarch (CS) diet affected the activity of oxytocin cells in the hypothalamus at the time of meal termination. Schedule-fed (2h/day) rats received either a HS or CS powdered diet for 20 days. On the 21st day, they were given the same or the opposite diet, and food was removed after the main consummatory activity was completed. Animals were perfused 60 min after feeding termination and brains were immunostained for oxytocin and the marker of neuronal activity, c-Fos. The percentage of c-Fos-positive oxytocin cells in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus was significantly lower in rats chronically exposed to the HS than to the CS diet, regardless of which diet they received on the final day. A similar pattern was observed in the supraoptic nucleus. We conclude that the chronic rather than acute sucrose intake reduces activity of the anorexigenic oxytocin system. These findings indicate that chronic consumption of sugar blunts activity of pathways that mediate satiety. We speculate that a reduction in central satiety signaling precipitated by regular intake of foods high in sugar may lead to generalized overeating.
The use of rats differing in the intake of sweet substances has highlighted some interesting parallels between taste preferences and drug self-administration. For example, rats selectively bred to consume high (HiS) or low (LoS) amounts of a 0.1% saccharin solution (when compared to water consumption), show corresponding differences across several measures of cocaine self-administration (HiS>LoS). In this study, we measured whether the two strains also differ when response requirements are imposed for obtaining a sucrose reinforcer. Male HiS and LoS rats were measured for operant responding for sucrose pellets under fixed-ratio (FR) schedules of 1, 3, 5 and 10 and under a progressive-ratio (PR) schedule, during which the response requirement for each successive pellet increased exponentially. The effect of systemic naltrexone (0.3, 1 and 3mg/kg) on PR responding for sucrose pellets was also tested. Under all FR and PR schedules, the number of pellets obtained by the LoS rats were significantly lower than those obtained by the HiS rats. Although the LoS weighed more than the HiS rats, this difference does not appear to explain differences in operant behavior. No strain differences in the effect of naltrexone were observed; the 3mg/kg dose reduced the number of pellets obtained in both strains. Measures of locomotor activity taken prior to operant trials suggest that the differences in responding were not due to differences in general activity levels. These studies provide further characterization of the HiS and LoS rat lines by demonstrating that motivation to consume sucrose is greater in HiS than in LoS rats.
Weight gain has been associated with many second generation antipsychotics (SGAs). A variety of theories have been put forward as to the etiology of SGA-associated weight gain. Modafinil possesses pharmacologic effects that could influence the weight gain associated with SGAs. The objective of this trial was to determine the effect of modafinil on olanzapine-associated weight gain.
One of the defining characteristics of the research of Ann E. Kelley was her recognition that the neuroscience underlying basic learning and motivation processes also shed significant light upon mechanisms underlying drug addiction and maladaptive eating patterns. In this review, we examine the parallels that exist in the neural pathways that process both food and drug reward, as determined by recent studies in animal models and human neuroimaging experiments. We discuss contemporary research that suggests that hyperphagia leading to obesity is associated with substantial neurochemical changes in the brain. These findings verify the relevance of reward pathways for promoting consumption of palatable, calorically dense foods, and lead to the important question of whether changes in reward circuitry in response to intake of such foods serve a causal role in the development and maintenance of some cases of obesity. Finally, we discuss the potential value for future studies at the intersection of the obesity epidemic and the neuroscience of motivation, as well as the potential concerns that arise from viewing excessive food intake as an "addiction". We suggest that it might be more useful to focus on overeating that results in frank obesity, and multiple health, interpersonal, and occupational negative consequences as a form of food "abuse".
Rodent animal models have been widely used for studying neurologic and toxicological events associated with cocaine abuse. It is known that the mouse is more susceptible to cocaine-induced hepatotoxicity (CIH) than the rat. However, the causes behind this species-dependent sensitivity to cocaine have not been elucidated. In this study, cocaine metabolism in the mouse and rat was characterized through LC-MS-based metabolomic analysis of urine samples and were further compared through calculating the relative abundance of individual cocaine metabolites. The results showed that the levels of benzoylecgonine, a major cocaine metabolite from ester hydrolysis, were comparable in the urine from the mice and rats treated with the same dose of cocaine. However, the levels of the cocaine metabolites from oxidative metabolism, such as N-hydroxybenzoylnorecgonine and hydroxybenzoylecgonine, differed dramatically between the two species, indicating species-dependent cocaine metabolism. Subsequent structural analysis through accurate mass analysis and LC-MS/MS fragmentation revealed that N-oxidation reactions, including N-demethylation and N-hydroxylation, are preferred metabolic routes in the mouse, while extensive aryl hydroxylation reactions occur in the rat. Through stable isotope tracing and in vitro enzyme reactions, a mouse-specific ?-glucoside of N-hydroxybenzoylnorecgonine and a group of aryl hydroxy glucuronides high in the rat were identified and structurally elucidated. The differences in the in vivo oxidative metabolism of cocaine between the two rodent species were confirmed by the in vitro microsomal incubations. Chemical inhibition of P450 enzymes further revealed that different P450-mediated oxidative reactions in the ecgonine and benzoic acid moieties of cocaine contribute to the species-dependent biotransformation of cocaine.
During cocaine-induced hepatotoxicity, lipid accumulation occurs prior to necrotic cell death in the liver. However, the exact influences of cocaine on the homeostasis of lipid metabolism remain largely unknown. In this study, the progression of subacute hepatotoxicity, including centrilobular necrosis in the liver and elevation of transaminase activity in serum, was observed in a three-day cocaine treatment, accompanying the disruption of triacylglycerol (TAG) turnover. Serum TAG level increased on day 1 of cocaine treatment but remained unchanged afterwards. In contrast, hepatic TAG level was elevated continuously during three days of cocaine treatment and was better correlated with the development of hepatotoxicity. Lipidomic analyses of serum and liver samples revealed time-dependent separation of the control and cocaine-treated mice in multivariate models, which was due to the accumulation of long-chain acylcarnitines together with the disturbances of many bioactive phospholipid species in the cocaine-treated mice. An in vitro function assay confirmed the progressive inhibition of mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation after the cocaine treatment. Cotreatment of fenofibrate significantly increased the expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor ? (PPAR?)-targeted genes and the mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation activity in the cocaine-treated mice, resulting in the inhibition of cocaine-induced acylcarnitine accumulation and other hepatotoxic effects. Overall, the results from this lipidomics-guided study revealed that the inhibition of fatty acid oxidation plays an important role in cocaine-induced liver injury.
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