Neurochemical changes after imbalanced diets suggest a brain circuit mediating anorectic responses to amino acid deficiency in rats

Dorothy W. Gietzen, Lesa F. Erecius, Quinton Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Amino acid-imbalanced (IMB) diets induce an acute amino acid deficiency and hypophagic responses in most animals. The neural circuits underlying these responses are unknown. To ascertain potential neural circuits involved in the recognition of IMB, we measured the concentrations of norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, their metabolites and 20 amino acids in 14 rat brain areas in three studies. Rats were prefed a basal diet with L-amino acids as the protein source for at least 1 wk. For the experiments, either threonine or isoleucine IMB diet was offered for 2.5 or 3.5 h. Brains were taken before (using a mildly IMB diet) or after (using moderately or severely IMB diet) food intake was significantly (P < 0.06) depressed. Brain areas were dissected and analyzed for monoamines, metabolites and amino acids. Only in the anterior piriform cortex (APC), a brain area that may contain the amino acid chemosensor, was the limiting amino acid lower in IMB groups than in controls across all of the experiments. Before the onset of the anorectic response to the IMB diets, monoaminergic activity was affected in areas that have recognized monosynaptic connections with the APC. We propose a circuit for the neural responses in the initial recognition of acute amino acid deprivation that begins with activation of the APC and includes areas in the hindbrain and hypothalamus. After a significant hypophagic response, serotonergic indicators were altered in areas of the taste pathway and the limbic system. These results suggest that different circuits mediate the initial recognition and secondary conditioned responses to IMB diets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-781
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 1998


  • Chemosensor
  • Conditioned aversion
  • Feeding behavior
  • Monoamines
  • Rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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