Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC)- and agouti-related peptide (AgRP)-expressing neurons of the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARC) are oppositely regulated by caloric depletion and coordinately stimulate and inhibit homeostatic satiety, respectively. This bimodality is principally underscored by the antagonistic actions of these ligands at downstream melanocortin-4 receptors (MC4R) in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVH). Although this population is critical to energy balance, the underlying neural circuitry remains unknown. Using mice expressing Cre recombinase in MC4R neurons, we demonstrate bidirectional control of feeding following real-time activation and inhibition of PVH MC4R neurons and further identify these cells as a functional exponent of ARC AgRP neuron-driven hunger. Moreover, we reveal this function to be mediated by a PVH MC4R â †'lateral parabrachial nucleus (LPBN) pathway. Activation of this circuit encodes positive valence, but only in calorically depleted mice. Thus, the satiating and appetitive nature of PVH MC4R â †'LPBN neurons supports the principles of drive reduction and highlights this circuit as a promising target for antiobesity drug development.
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