Role of orexin A signaling in dietary palmitic acid-activated microglial cells

Cayla M. Duffy, Ce Yuan, Lauren E. Wisdorf, Charles J Billington, Catherine M Kotz, Joshua P. Nixon, Tammy A. Butterick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Excess dietary saturated fatty acids such as palmitic acid (PA) induce peripheral and hypothalamic inflammation. Hypothalamic inflammation, mediated in part by microglial activation, contributes to metabolic dysregulation. In rodents, high fat diet-induced microglial activation results in nuclear translocation of nuclear factor-kappa B (NFκB), and increased central pro-inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6). The hypothalamic neuropeptide orexin A (OXA, hypocretin 1) is neuroprotective in brain. In cortex, OXA can also reduce inflammation and neurodegeneration through a microglial-mediated pathway. Whether hypothalamic orexin neuroprotection mechanisms depend upon microglia is unknown. To address this issue, we evaluated effects of OXA and PA on inflammatory response in immortalized murine microglial and hypothalamic neuronal cell lines. We demonstrate for the first time in microglial cells that exposure to PA increases gene expression of orexin-1 receptor but not orexin-2 receptor. Pro-inflammatory markers IL-6, TNF-α, and inducible nitric oxide synthase in microglial cells are increased following PA exposure, but are reduced by pretreatment with OXA. The anti-inflammatory marker arginase-1 is increased by OXA. Finally, we show hypothalamic neurons exposed to conditioned media from PA-challenged microglia have increased cell survival only when microglia were pretreated with OXA. These data support the concept that OXA may act as an immunomodulatory regulator of microglia, reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines and increasing anti-inflammatory factors to promote a favorable neuronal microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-144
Number of pages5
JournalNeuroscience Letters
StatePublished - Oct 8 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. Dongsheng Cai (Albert Einstein College of Medicine) for his insightful comments on a prior version of this manuscript. We thank Drs. Philippe Marambaud (Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, NY) and Weihua Zhao (Methodist Hospital, Houston, TX) for providing the BV-2 cell line. Funding provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs BLR&D BX001686 (TAB) and RR&D RX000441 (CMK), NIDDK R01 DK100281 (CMK), and the University of Minnesota Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute (CMD).


  • Cytokine
  • Hypocretin
  • Immunomodulation
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Palmitic acid

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