Obesity has increased in prevalence worldwide, attributed in part to the influences of an obesity-promoting environment and genetic factors. While obesity and overweight increasingly seem to be the norm, there remain individuals who resist obesity. We present here an overview of data supporting the idea that hypothalamic neuropeptide orexin A (OXA; hypocretin 1) may be a key component of brain mechanisms underlying obesity resistance. Prior work with models of obesity and obesity resistance in rodents has shown that increased orexin and/or orexin sensitivity is correlated with elevated spontaneous physical activity (SPA), and that orexin-induced SPA contributes to obesity resistance via increased non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). However, central hypothalamic orexin signaling mechanisms that regulate SPA remain undefined. Our ongoing studies and work of others support the hypothesis that one such mechanism may be upregulation of a hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF-1α)-dependent pathway, suggesting that orexin may promote obesity resistance both by increasing SPA and by influencing the metabolic state of orexin-responsive hypothalamic neurons. We discuss potential mechanisms based on both animal and in vitro pharmacological studies, in the context of elucidating potential molecular targets for obesity prevention and therapy.
- Orexin (hypocretin)
- Spontaneous physical activity