Diet-Induced Growth Is Regulated via Acquired Leptin Resistance and Engages a Pomc-Somatostatin-Growth Hormone Circuit

Anorexigenic pro-opiomelanocortin (Pomc)/alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone (αMSH) neurons of the hypothalamic melanocortin system function as key regulators of energy homeostasis, also controlling somatic growth across different species. However, the mechanisms of melanocortin-dependent growth control still remain ill-defined. Here, we reveal a thus-far-unrecognized structural and functional connection between Pomc neurons and the somatotropic hypothalamo-pituitary axis. Excessive feeding of larval zebrafish causes leptin resistance and reduced levels of the hypothalamic satiety mediator pomca. In turn, this leads to reduced activation of hypophysiotropic somatostatin (Sst)-neurons that express the melanocortin receptor Mc4r, elevated growth hormone (GH) expression in the pituitary, and enhanced somatic growth. Mc4r expression and αMSH responsiveness are conserved in Sst-expressing hypothalamic neurons of mice. Thus, acquired leptin resistance and attenuation of pomca transcription in response to excessive caloric intake may represent an ancient mechanism to promote somatic growth when food resources are plentiful.

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Heiko Löhr, Simon Hess, Mafalda M.A. Pereira, Philip Reinoß, Sandra Leibold, Christel Schenkel, Claudia M. Wunderlich, Peter Kloppenburg, Jens C. Brüning, Matthias Hammerschmidt5,’Correspondence information about the author Matthias Hammerschmidt

Cell Reports , 2018