Neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurons in both the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARH) and the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH) have been implicated in food intake and obesity. However, whileARHNPYis highly expressed in the lean animal,DMHNPYmRNAexpression is observed only after diet-induced obesity (DIO). Furthermore, while ARH NPY neurons are inhibited by leptin, the effect of this adipokine on DMH NPY neurons is unknown. In this study we show that in contrast to the consistent expression in the ARH, DMH NPY mRNA expression was undetectable until after 10 weeks in mice fed a high-fat diet, and peaked at 20 weeks. Surprisingly, electrophysiological experiments demonstrated that leptin directly depolarized and increased the firing rate of DMH NPY neurons in DIO mice. To further differentiate the regulation of DMH and ARH NPY populations, fasting decreased expression of DMH NPY expression, while it increasedARHNPYexpression. However, treatment with a leptin receptor antagonist failed to alterDMHNPYexpression, indicating that leptin may not be the critical factor regulating mRNA expression. Importantly, we also demonstrated thatDMHNPY neurons coexpress cocaine amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART); however, CART mRNA expression in the DMH peaked earlier in the progression of DIO. This study demonstrates novel and important findings. First, NPY and CART are coexpressed in the same neurons within the DMH, and second, leptin stimulates DMH NPY neurons. These studies suggest that during the progression of DIO, there is an unknown signal that drives the expression of the orexigenic NPY signal within the DMH, and that the chronic hyperleptinemia increases the activity of these NPY/CART neurons.
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