Frontiers Media S.A.
Frontiers in Neuroscience
While pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) signaling in the hypothalamic ventromedial nuclei (VMN) has been shown to regulate feeding, a challenge in unmasking a role for this peptide in obesity is that excess feeding can involve numerous mechanisms including homeostatic (hunger) and hedonic-related (palatability) drives. In these studies, we first isolated distinct feeding drives by developing a novel model of binge behavior in which homeostatic-driven feeding was temporally separated from feeding driven by food palatability. We found that stimulation of the VMN, achieved by local microinjections of AMPA, decreased standard chow consumption in food-restricted rats (e.g., homeostatic feeding); surprisingly, this manipulation failed to alter palatable food consumption in satiated rats (e.g., hedonic feeding). In contrast, inhibition of the nucleus accumbens (NAc), through local microinjections of GABA receptor agonists baclofen and muscimol, decreased hedonic feeding without altering homeostatic feeding. PACAP microinjections produced the site-specific changes in synaptic transmission needed to decrease feeding via VMN or NAc circuitry. PACAP into the NAc mimicked the actions of GABA agonists by reducing hedonic feeding without altering homeostatic feeding. In contrast, PACAP into the VMN mimicked the actions of AMPA by decreasing homeostatic feeding without affecting hedonic feeding. Slice electrophysiology recordings verified PACAP excitation of VMN neurons and inhibition of NAc neurons. These data suggest that the VMN and NAc regulate distinct circuits giving rise to unique feeding drives, but that both can be regulated by the neuropeptide PACAP to potentially curb excessive eating stemming from either drive.