Neuromodulation of orexin neurons reduces diet-induced adiposity

A. N. Zink, P. E. Bunney, A. A. Holm, C. J. Billington, C. M. Kotz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Background/Objectives:Low levels of orexin are associated with obesity and reduced physical activity in humans and animals.Subjects/Methods:Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs) selectively activated orexin neurons in mouse lateral hypothalamus (LH) to measure effects on spontaneous physical activity (SPA). DREADD targeting was achieved by stereotaxic injection of AAV vectors into caudal lateral LH of heterozygous orexin-Cre or C57/B6J mice. In one set of studies, excitation of orexin neurons was examined (virus: AAV2-EF1a-DIO-hM3Dq-mCherry), and test sessions began 3-4 h after light cycle onset. In a study examining the inhibition of orexin neurons (virus: AAV2-hSyn-DIO-hM4Di-mCherry), testing began 15 min prior to dark cycle onset. Clozapine n-oxide (CNO; 1 or 5 mg/kg) or saline was injected intraperitoneally and time spent moving in open field chambers was recorded for 2 h. Follow-up studies in separate mouse cohorts quantified SPA in parallel with changes in energy expenditure (EE) and chow intake using indirect calorimetry chambers (SableSystem™). Following acclimation, testing sessions (saline and/or CNO) took place over the course of ∼1 week, with injections administered every day. Changes in SPA, EE, chow intake, fecal boli, and body composition (EchoMRI™) were measured. Additional mice cohorts were fed a high-fat diet (HFD) and injected with CNO daily up to 10 days to assess the potential for orexin activation to prevent diet-induced obesity.Results:Activation of orexin resulted in increases in SPA in male and female mice, and was accompanied by increases in energy expenditure without changes in overall chow intake. When orexin activation occurred in the context of high fat diet, weight gain and adiposity were significantly attenuated. SPA was decreased when DREADDs were used to inhibit orexin activity.Conclusion:These results demonstrate that orexin neurons play a critical role in mediating physical activity and suggest a novel therapeutic target for treating obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)737-745
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018

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