Hypothalamic gene expression during voluntary hypophagia in the Sprague-Dawley rat on withdrawal of the palatable liquid diet, Ensure

Julian G Mercer, Jacqueline S Duncan, Zoe A Archer

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Sprague-Dawley rats over-consume calories over a 10 week period and develop diet-induced obesity (c. 100 g body weight differential vs controls) when fed a control pellet diet supplemented with chocolate Ensure liquid. Subsequent withdrawal of Ensure immediately reduces caloric intake by more than 50%, and results in weight loss, despite control pellet being available ad libitum. To assess the molecular underpinnings of this phenomenon, brains were processed for energy balance and food reward-related gene expression analysis at two time points, 24 h and 4 days after the withdrawal of Ensure, when energy intake was suppressed. Gene expression levels in hypothalamic arcuate nucleus and forebrain nucleus accumbens were compared with rats pair-fed to the same energy intake, i.e. imposed negative energy balance, and to controls fed control pellet ad libitum throughout. Cumulative energy intake was approximately 50% lower across the 4 day post-Ensure period, giving rise to a small reduction in body weight although body adiposity and blood leptin remained elevated (c. 100% and 50%, respectively vs controls) in rats that had previously been fed Ensure. In contrast, pair-feeding reduced blood insulin and leptin by 33% and 55%, respectively. Hypothalamic expression of neuropeptide Y and agouti-related peptide was down-regulated at 24 h in rats previously fed Ensure, indicative of the apparent counter-regulatory changes seen in diet-induced obesity, but was normalised between the 24 h and 4 day time points. By contrast, the effect of cumulative negative energy balance in the pair-fed groups increased with time, up-regulating expression of the orexigenic neuropeptides. There was also a reduction of suppressor of cytokine signalling-3 gene expression in pair-fed groups where leptin levels were low. There were no changes in opioid, dopamine receptor or cannabinoid receptor expression in the nucleus accumbens. Feedback from diet-induced obesity appears to drive voluntary hypophagia upon withdrawal of palatable diet, and to override signals from intake restriction that would otherwise set in train an anabolic drive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-179
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Early online date14 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2014


  • diet-induced obesity
  • reward
  • neuropeptide Y
  • agouti related peptide
  • SOCS3


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