Matt Carter Publishes in Nature

Genetic identification of a neural circuit that suppresses appetite

Carter, ME, Soden, ME, Zweifel, LS, Palmiter, RD. Nature (2013). doi:10.1038/nature12596.


Appetite suppression occurs after a meal and in conditions when it is unfavourable to eat, such as during illness or exposure to toxins. A brain region proposed to play a role in appetite suppression is the parabrachial nucleus1, 2, 3, a heterogeneous population of neurons surrounding the superior cerebellar peduncle in the brainstem. The parabrachial nucleus is thought to mediate the suppression of appetite induced by the anorectic hormones amylin and cholecystokinin2, as well as by lithium chloride and lipopolysaccharide, compounds that mimic the effects of toxic foods and bacterial infections, respectively4, 5, 6. Hyperactivity of the parabrachial nucleus is also thought to cause starvation after ablation of orexigenic agouti-related peptide neurons in adult mice1, 7. However, the identities of neurons in the parabrachial nucleus that regulate feeding are unknown, as are the functionally relevant downstream projections. Here we identify calcitonin gene-related peptide-expressing neurons in the outer external lateral subdivision of the parabrachial nucleus that project to the laterocapsular division of the central nucleus of the amygdala as forming a functionally important circuit for suppressing appetite. Using genetically encoded anatomical, optogenetic8 and pharmacogenetic9 tools, we demonstrate that activation of these neurons projecting to the central nucleus of the amygdala suppresses appetite. In contrast, inhibition of these neurons increases food intake in circumstances when mice do not normally eat and prevents starvation in adult mice whose agouti-related peptide neurons are ablated. Taken together, our data demonstrate that this neural circuit from the parabrachial nucleus to the central nucleus of the amygdala mediates appetite suppression in conditions when it is unfavourable to eat. This neural circuit may provide targets for therapeutic intervention to overcome or promote appetite.