Neural Input Is Critical for Arcuate Hypothalamic Neurons to Mount Intracellular Signaling Responses to Systemic Insulin and Deoxyglucose Challenges in Male Rats: Implications for Communication Within Feeding and Metabolic Control Networks
The hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARH) controls rat feeding behavior in part through peptidergic neurons projecting to the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVH). Hindbrain catecholaminergic (CA) neurons innervate both the PVH and ARH, and ablation of CA afferents to PVH neuroendocrine neurons prevents them from mounting cellular responses to systemic metabolic challenges such as insulin or 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG). Here, we asked whether ablating CA afferents also limits their ARH responses to the same challenges or alters ARH connectivity with the PVH. We examined ARH neurons for three features: (1) CA afferents, visualized by dopamine-β-hydroxylase (DBH)– immunoreactivity; (2) activation by systemic metabolic challenge, as measured by increased numbers of neurons immunoreactive (ir) for phosphorylated ERK1/2 (pERK1/2); and (3) density of PVH-targeted axons immunoreactive for the feeding control peptides Agouti-related peptide and α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (αMSH). Loss of PVH DBH immunoreactivity resulted in concomitant ARH reductions of DBH-ir and pERK1/2-ir neurons in the medial ARH, where AgRP neurons are enriched. In contrast, pERK1/2 immunoreactivity after systemic metabolic challenge was absent in αMSH-ir ARH neurons. Yet surprisingly, axonal αMSH immunoreactivity in the PVH was markedly increased in CA-ablated animals. These results indicate that (1) intrinsic ARH activity is insufficient to recruit pERK1/2-ir ARH neurons during systemic metabolic challenges (rather, hindbrain-originating CA neurons are required); and (2) rats may compensate for a loss of CA innervation to the ARH and PVH by increased expression of αMSH. These findings highlight the existence of a hierarchical dependence for ARH responses to neural and humoral signals that influence feeding behavior and metabolism.