Neuroanatomical dissection of the MC3R circuitry regulating energy rheostasis

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Although mammals resist both acute weight loss and weight gain, the neural circuitry mediating bi-directional defense against weight change is incompletely understood. Global constitutive deletion of the melanocortin-3-receptor (MC3R) impairs the behavioral response to both anorexic and orexigenic stimuli, with MC3R knockout mice demonstrating increased weight gain following anabolic challenges and increased weight loss following anorexic challenges (i.e. impaired energy rheostasis). However, the brain regions mediating this phenotype remain incompletely understood.

Here, we utilized MC3R floxed mice and viral injections of Cre-recombinase to selectively delete MC3R from medial hypothalamus (MH) in adult mice. Behavioral assays were performed on these animals to test the role of MC3R in MH in the acute response to orexigenic and anorexic challenges. Complementary chemogenetic approaches were used in MC3R-Cre mice to localize and characterize the specific medial hypothalamic brain regions mediating the role of MC3R in energy homeostasis. Finally, we performed RNAscope in situ hybridization to map changes in the mRNA expression of MC3R, POMC, and AgRP following energy rheostatic challenges.

Our results demonstrate that MC3R deletion in MH increased feeding and weight gain following acute high fat diet feeding in males, and enhanced the anorexic effects of semaglutide, in a sexually dimorphic manner. Additionally, activation of DMH MC3R neurons increased energy expenditure and locomotion. Together, these results demonstrate that MC3R mediated effects on energy rheostasis result from the loss of MC3R signaling in the medial hypothalamus of adult animals and suggest an important role for DMH MC3R signaling in energy rheostasis.

Key Points:

  • MC3R signaling regulates energy rheostasis in adult mice

  • Medial hypothalamus regulates energy rheostasis in adult mice

  • Energy rheostasis alters mRNA levels of AgRP and MC3R in DMH

  • DMH MC3R neurons increase locomotion and energy expenditure

  • MC3R expression in DMH is sexually dimorphic

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