Neuronal activity in hypothalamic nuclei of obese and lean Zucker rats

V. H. Routh, D. M. Murakami, J. S. Stern, C. A. Fuller, Barbara A Horwitz

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23 Scopus citations


Central neural activity was assessed by measuring relative cytochrome oxidase (CO) activity in the ventromedial nucleus (VMN; thermogenesis regulation), the parvocellular paraventricular nucleus (PVN; feeding regulation), and the magnocellular PVN (secretion of vasopressin and oxytocin) in 10 age-matched pairs of 39- to 42-day-old Zucker rats. When obese (fa/fa) were compared to lean (Fa/Fa) rats, relative CO activity was significantly lower (~ 10 percent) in the VMN and parvocellular PVN, but not in the magnocellular PVN. Cell diameters did not differ. To determine if there were corresponding differences in levels or release of hypothalamic monoamines, we compared 7 pairs of 90- to 94-day-old lean (Fa/?) and obese (fa/fa) rats at rest and after 2 h of 9 °C. Tissue punches from frozen PVN, VMN, and preoptic area (the latter being a site of thermosensitive units modulating VMN output) were assayed. In obese vs. lean noncold-exposed rats, we observed lower concentrations of: 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5HIAA; metabolite of serotonin, 5HT) in the VMN; 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG; metabolite of norepinephrine, NE) and NE + MHPG (index of total NE) in the preoptic area; and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC; metabolite of dopamine, DA) in the PVN. Additionally, in the VMN, cold exposure resulted in: elevated concentrations of MHPG and MHPG + NE in both lean and obese rats; elevated concentrations of 5HT, 5HIAA, and 5HT + 5HIAA in obese rats, with no significant changes in these variables in lean animals; decreased ratio of 5HIAA/5HT in obese rats and increased rats in leans. In the preoptic region, cold exposure led to increased concentrations of MHPG, NE + MHPG, 5HT, and 5HT + 5HIAA in obese but not lean rats. In the PVN, 5HT concentrations were increased in cold-exposed obese but not lean rats. Our data support the hypothesis that neuronal activity in obese rats differs from that of lean rats at rest and during cold exposure and suggest the several monoamine systems play a role in such differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)879-891
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1990


  • brown fat
  • cytochrome oxidase
  • hypothalamic monoamines
  • hypothalamic norepinephrine turnover
  • hypothalamic serotonin turnover
  • obesity
  • paraventricular nucleus
  • preoptic area
  • ventromedial nucleus
  • Zucker rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Endocrinology
  • Food Science
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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