Endogenous opioids facilitate stress‐induced binge eating via an insular cortex‐claustrum pathway

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Stress has been shown to promote the development and persistence of binge eating behaviors. However, the neural circuit mechanisms for stress-induced binge-eating behaviors are largely unreported. The endogenous dynorphin (dyn)/kappa opioid receptor (KOR) opioid neuropeptide system has been well-established to be a crucial mediator of the anhedonic component of stress. Here, we aimed to dissect the basis of dynorphinergic control of stress-induced binge-like eating behavior. We first established a mouse behavioral model for stress-induced binge-like eating behaviors. We found that mice exposed to stress increased their food intake of familiar palatable food (high fat, high sugar, HPD) compared to non-stressed mice. Following a brain-wide analysis, we isolated robust cFos-positive cells in the Claustrum (CLA), a subcortical structure with highly abundant KOR expression, following stress-induced binge-eating behavior. We report that KOR signaling in CLA is necessary for this elevated stress-induced binge eating behavior using local pharmacology and local deletion of KOR. In vivo calcium recordings using fiber photometry revealed a disinhibition circuit structure in the CLA during the initiation of HPD feeding bouts. We further established the dynamics of endogenous dynorphinergic control of this behavior using a genetically encoded dynorphin biosensor, Klight. Combined with 1-photon single-cell calcium imaging, we report significant heterogeneity with the CLA population during stress-induced binge eating and such behavior attenuates local dynorphin tone. Furthermore, we isolate the anterior Insular cortex (aIC) as the potential source of endogenous dynorphin afferents in the CLA. By characterizing neural circuits and peptidergic mechanisms within the CLA, we uncover a pathway that implicates endogenous opioid regulation stress-induced binge eating.

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