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Uneven balance of power between hypothalamic peptidergic neurons in the control of feeding.


Two classes of peptide-producing neurons in the arcuate nucleus (Arc) of the hypothalamus are known to exert opposing actions on feeding: the anorexigenic neurons that express proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and the orexigenic neurons that express agouti-related protein (AgRP) and neuropeptide Y (NPY). These neurons are thought to arise from a common embryonic progenitor, but our anatomical and functional understanding of the interplay of these two peptidergic systems that contribute to the control of feeding remains incomplete. The present study uses a combination of optogenetic stimulation with viral and transgenic approaches, coupled with neural activity mapping and brain transparency visualization to demonstrate the following: () selective activation of Arc POMC neurons inhibits food consumption rapidly in unsated animals; () activation of Arc neurons arising from POMC-expressing progenitors, including POMC and a subset of AgRP neurons, triggers robust feeding behavior, even in the face of satiety signals from POMC neurons; () the opposing effects on food intake are associated with distinct neuronal projection and activation patterns of adult hypothalamic POMC neurons versus Arc neurons derived from POMC-expressing lineages; and () the increased food intake following the activation of orexigenic neurons derived from POMC-expressing progenitors engages an extensive neural network that involves the endogenous opioid system. Together, these findings shed further light on the dynamic balance between two peptidergic systems in the moment-to-moment regulation of feeding behavior. Copyright © 2018 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.