Energy balance is regulated by anorexigenic proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and orexigenic neuropeptide Y/agouti-related peptide (NPY/AgRP) neurons of the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus. POMC neurons make extensive projections and are thought to release both amino acid and peptide neurotransmitters. However, whether they communicate directly with NPY/AgRP neurons is debated. Initially, using single-cell RT-PCR, we determined that mouse POMCeGFP neurons express Slc17a6 (Vglut2) and Slc18a2 (Vmat2), but not Slc31a1 (Vgat) mRNA, suggesting glutamate and non-canonical GABA release. Quantitative (q)RT-PCR of POMCeGFP cells revealed that Vglut2 and Vmat2 expression was significantly increased in E2-versus oil-treated, ovariectomized (OVX) female mice. Since 17β-estradiol (E2) is anorexigenic, we hypothesized that an underlying mechanism is enhancement of POMC signaling. Therefore, we optogenetically stimulated POMC neurons in hypothalamic slices to examine evoked release of neurotransmitters onto NPY/AgRP neurons. Using brief light pulses, we primarily observed glutamatergic currents and, based on the paired pulse ratio (PPR), determined that release probability was higher in E2-versus oil-treated, OVX female, congruent with increased Vlgut2 expression. Moreover, bath perfusion of the Gq-coupled membrane estrogen receptor (ER) agonist STX recapitulated the effects of E2 treatment. In addition, high-frequency (20 Hz) stimulation generated a slow outward current that reversed near Ek+ and was antagonized by naloxone, indicative of β-endorphin release. Furthermore, individual NPY/AgRP neurons were found to express Oprm1, the transcript for μ-opioid receptor, and DAMGO, a selective agonist, elicited an outward current. Therefore, POMC excitability and neurotransmission are enhanced by E2, which would facilitate decreased food consumption through marked inhibition of NPY/AgRP neurons.
- Sex differences
ASJC Scopus subject areas