Published on Thu Sep 09 2021

Identification of a stress-sensitive anorexigenic neurocircuit from medial prefrontal cortex to lateral hypothalamus in humans and mice

Clarke, R. E., Voigt, K., Stark, R., Bharania, U., Dempsey, H., Reichenbach, A., Lockie, S., Mequinion, M., Reed, F., Rawlinson, S., Nunez-Iglesias, J., Foldi, C. J., Verdejo-Garcia, A., Kravitz, L., Andrews, Z. B.

Animal models that examine neural circuits controlling food intake often lack translational relevance. We identified neural network dynamics related to homeostatic state and BMI in humans. We then dissected the mechanistic underpinnings of this human-relevant mPFC-LH circuit in mice.

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Abstract

Animal models that examine neural circuits controlling food intake often lack translational relevance. To address this limitation, we identified neural network dynamics related to homeostatic state and BMI in humans. This approach predicted a novel pathway projecting from the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) to the lateral hypothalamus (LH) in humans. We then dissected the mechanistic underpinnings of this human-relevant mPFC-LH circuit in mice. Chemogenetic or optogenetic activation of the mPFC-LH pathway in mice suppressed food intake and motivated sucrose-seeking. Fibre photometry demonstrated this pathway was active in response to acute stress or prior to novel environment or object exposure, suggesting a role in the predictive assessment of potential threat. Food consumption suppressed mPFC-LH neuronal activity, independent of metabolic state or palatability. Finally, inhibition of this circuit increased feeding and motivated behaviour under mild stress and chronic ablation caused weight gain. These studies identify the mPFC-LH as a novel stress-sensitive anorexigenic neural pathway involved in the cortical control of food intake and motivated reward-seeking.