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Leptin signaling pathways, stemming primarily from the hypothalamus, are necessary for maintaining normal energy homeostasis and body weight. In both rodents and humans, dysregulation of leptin signaling leads to morbid obesity and diabetes. Since leptin resistance is considered a primary factor underlying obesity, understanding the regulation of leptin signaling could lead to therapeutic tools and provide insights into the causality of obesity. While leptin actions in some hypothalamic regions such as the arcuate nuclei have been characterized, less is known about leptin activity in the hypothalamic ventromedial nuclei (VMN). Recently, pituitary adenylate cyclase activating-polypeptide (PACAP) has been shown to reduce feeding behavior and alter metabolism when administered into the VMN in a pattern similar to that of leptin. In the current studies, we examined whether leptin and PACAP actions in the VMN share overlapping pathways in the regulation of energy balance. Interestingly, PACAP administration into the VMN increased STAT3 phosphorylation and SOCS3 mRNA expression both of which are hallmarks of leptin receptor activation. In addition, BDNF mRNA expression in the VMN was also increased by both leptin and PACAP administration. Moreover, antagonizing PACAP receptors fully reversed the behavioral and cellular effects of leptin injections into the VMN. Electrophysiological studies further illustrated that leptin-induced effects on VMN neurons were blocked by antagonizing PACAP receptors. We conclude that leptin dependency on PACAP signaling in the VMN suggests a potential common signaling cascade allowing a tonically and systemically secreted neuropeptide to be more precisely regulated by central neuropeptides.


Accepted version. Neuroendocrinology, Vol. 110, No. 3-4 (March 2020): 271-281. DOI. © 2020 Karger. Used with permission.

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