Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) overexpressing (OE) mice are a genetic model that exhibits features of chronic stress. We investigated whether the adaptive feeding response to a hypocaloric challenge induced by food deprivation is impaired under conditions of chronic CRF overproduction. Food intake response to a 16-h overnight fast and ip injection of gut hormones regulating food intake were compared in CRF-OE and wild type (WT) littermate mice along with brain Fos expression, circulating ghrelin levels, and gastric emptying of a nonnutrient meal. CRF-OE mice injected ip with saline showed a 47 and 44% reduction of 30-min and 4-h cumulative food intake response to an overnight fast, respectively, compared with WT. However, the 30-min food intake decrease induced by ip cholecystokinin (3 μg/kg) and increase by ghrelin (300 μg/kg) were similar in CRF-OE and WT mice. Overnight fasting increased the plasma total ghrelin to similar levels in CRF-OE and WT mice, although CRF-OE mice had a 2-fold reduction of nonfasting ghrelin levels. The number of Fos-immunoreactive cells induced by fasting in the arcuate nucleus was reduced by 5.9-fold in CRF-OE compared with WT mice whereas no significant changes were observed in other hypothalamic nuclei. In contrast, fasted CRF-OE mice displayed a 5.6-fold increase in Fos-immunoreactive cell number in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve and a 34% increase in 20-min gastric emptying. These findings indicate that sustained overproduction of hypothalamic CRF in mice interferes with fasting-induced activation of arcuate nucleus neurons and the related hyperphagic response.
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