Molecular duo dictate weight and energy levels

February 28, 2012
Three MCH neurons in the hypothalamus region of a mouse brain are highlighted in green. In animals, these neurons are associated with high calorie intake and lower energy levels. Yale researchers have shown how the effects of these key cells are reversed. Credit: Courtesy Yale University

Yale University researchers have discovered a key cellular mechanism that may help the brain control how much we eat, what we weigh, and how much energy we have.

The findings, published in the Feb. 28 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, describe the regulation of a family of cells that project throughout the nervous system and originate in an area of the brain call the hypothalamus, which has been long known to control energy balances.

Scientists and pharmaceutical companies are closely investigating the role of melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) neurons in controlling food intake and energy. Previous studies have shown that MCH makes eat more, sleep more, and have less energy. In contrast, other use the thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) as a neurotransmitter, and these neurons reduce food intake and body weight, and increase physical activity.

The Yale study of brains of mice shows that the two systems appear to act in direct opposition, to help the organism keep these crucial functions in balance.

Although TRH is normally an , the Yale study shows that in mice TRH inhibits MCH cells by increasing inhibitory synaptic input. In contrast, TRH had little effect on other types of neurons also involved in .

"That these two types of neurons interact at the synaptic level gives us clues as to how the brain controls the amount of food we eat, and how much we sleep," said Anthony van den Pol, senior author and professor of neurosurgery at Yale School of Medicine.

Explore further: Modulation of inhibitory output is key function of antiobesity hormone

Related Stories

Modulation of inhibitory output is key function of antiobesity hormone

July 13, 2011
Scientists have known for some time that the hormone leptin acts in the brain to prevent obesity, but the specific underlying neurocircuitry has remained a mystery. Now, new research published by Cell Press in the July 14 ...

Recommended for you

Faulty cell signaling derails cerebral cortex development, could it lead to autism?

September 20, 2017
As the embryonic brain develops, an incredibly complex cascade of cellular events occur, starting with progenitors - the originating cells that generate neurons and spur proper cortex development. If this cascade malfunctions ...

Research redefines proteins' role in the development of spinal sensory cells

September 19, 2017
A recent study led by Samantha Butler at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA has overturned a common belief about how a certain class of proteins in the spinal cord regulate ...

The brain at work: Spotting half-hidden objects

September 19, 2017
How does a driver's brain realize that a stop sign is behind a bush when only a red edge is showing? Or how can a monkey suspect that the yellow sliver in the leaves is a round piece of fruit?

Team discovers how to train damaging inflammatory cells to promote repair after stroke

September 19, 2017
White blood cells called neutrophils are like soldiers in your body that form in the bone marrow and at the first sign of microbial attack, head for the site of injury just as fast as they can to neutralize invading bacteria ...

Epileptic seizures show long-distance effects

September 19, 2017
The area in which an epileptic seizure starts in the brain, may be small but it reaches other parts of the brain at distances of over ten centimeters. That distant activity, in turn, influences the epileptic core, according ...

Study uncovers markers for severe form of multiple sclerosis

September 18, 2017
Scientists have uncovered two closely related cytokines—molecules involved in cell communication and movement—that may explain why some people develop progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), the most severe form of the disease. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.