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Complementary Roles of Orexin and Melanin-Concentrating Hormone in Feeding Behavior

International Journal of Endocrinology
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  • Biology
  • Ecology


Transcribed within the lateral hypothalamus, the neuropeptides orexin/hypocretin (OX) and melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) both promote palatable food intake and are stimulated by palatable food. While these two neuropeptides share this similar positive relationship with food, recent evidence suggests that this occurs through different albeit complementary effects on behavior, with OX promoting food seeking and motivation for palatable food and MCH functioning during ongoing food intake, reinforcing the consumption of calorically dense foods. Further differences are evident in their effects on physiological processes, which are largely opposite in nature. For example, activation of OX receptors, which is neuronally excitatory, promotes waking, increases energy expenditure, and enhances limbic dopamine levels and reward. In contrast, activation of MCH receptors, which is neuronally inhibitory, promotes paradoxical sleep, enhances energy conservation, reduces limbic dopamine, and increases depressive behavior. This review describes these different effects of the neuropeptides, developing the hypothesis that they stimulate the consumption of palatable food through excessive seeking in the case of OX and through excessive energy conservation in the case of MCH. It proposes that OX initiates food intake and subsequently stimulates MCH which then acts to prolong the consumption of palatable, energy-dense food.

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