The fatty acid synthase inhibitor cerulenin and feeding, like leptin, activate hypothalamic pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons

I. Wei Shu, Daniel L. Lindenberg, Tooru M. Mizuno, James L. Roberts, Charles V. Mobbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Hypothalamic POMC neurons mediate catabolic responses such as decreased food intake and increased energy expenditure by, in part, monitoring levels of metabolic factors such as glucose, insulin and leptin. Recently, fatty acid synthase inhibitors were reported to reduce body weight, inhibit food intake, and increase metabolic rate, possibly by acting on hypothalamic neurons through a mechanism involving malonyl-CoA accumulation. Given the observation that leptin mediates similar catabolic effects by, in part, activating hypothalamic POMC neurons, it is possible that other catabolic signals such as feeding and fatty acid synthase inhibition may also activate POMC neurons. To test this hypothesis, hypothalamic sections from mice that were fed or injected with the fatty acid synthase inhibitor cerulenin were examined for Fos (a marker for neuronal activation) and POMC product immunoreactivity and compared with similarly processed sections from leptin-injected mice. Feeding increased Fos immunoreactivity in the lateral peri-arcuate area of the hypothalamus of both wild-type and leptin-deficient ob/ob mice (P<0.05), indicating that nutritional activation of the hypothalamus can be leptin-independent. Furthermore, feeding significantly induced Fos immunoreactivity in neurons expressing POMC (P<0.003), indicating that feeding, like leptin, activates POMC neurons. Injection with cerulenin, like feeding and leptin, also increased Fos immunoreactivity in the lateral peri-arcuate area (P<0.03) and, more specifically, in neurons expressing POMC. In contrast, injection with cerulenin had no grossly observable effects on cortical Fos immunoreactivity and appeared to suppress fasting-induced Fos immunoreactivity by about 35% (although the decrease did not reach statistical significance) in the medial arcuate nucleus, an area associated with anabolic responses such as increased food intake. Injection with cerulenin also decreased Fos immunoreactivity in the granular layer of the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus by about 30% (P<0.05), further suggesting that cerulenin does not non-specifically activate wide varieties of neurons. These results suggest that activation of hypothalamic POMC neurons may help to mediate some of the catabolic effects associated with feeding, cerulenin and leptin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 19 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Body weight
  • C75
  • Cerulenin
  • Fatty acid synthase inhibitor
  • Feeding
  • Food intake
  • Hypothalamus
  • Leptin
  • Malonyl CoA
  • Pro-opiomelano cortin
  • c-fos
  • ob/ob

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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