Hypothalamic AgRP and POMC neurons are conventionally viewed as the yin and yang of the body’s energy status, since they act in an opposite manner to modulate appetite and systemic energy metabolism. However, although AgRP neurons’ functions are comparatively well understood, a unifying theory of how POMC neuronal cells operate has remained elusive, probably due to their high level of heterogeneity, which suggests that their physiological roles might be more complex than initially thought. In this Perspective, we propose a conceptual framework that integrates POMC neuronal heterogeneity with appetite regulation, whole-body metabolic physiology and the development of obesity. We highlight emerging evidence indicating that POMC neurons respond to distinct combinations of interoceptive signals and food-related cues to fine-tune divergent metabolic pathways and behaviours necessary for survival. The new framework we propose reflects the high degree of developmental plasticity of this neuronal population and may enable progress towards understanding of both the aetiology and treatment of metabolic disorders.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Cell Biology
- Physiology (medical)