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Leptin Sensitizes NTS Neurons to Vagal Input by Increasing Postsynaptic NMDA Receptor Currents.

  • Neyens, Drew1
  • Zhao, Huan1
  • Huston, Nathaneal J1
  • Wayman, Gary A1
  • Ritter, Robert C1
  • Appleyard, Suzanne M2
  • 1 Department of Integrated Physiology and Neuroscience, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164.
  • 2 Department of Integrated Physiology and Neuroscience, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164 [email protected]
Published Article
Journal of Neuroscience
Society for Neuroscience
Publication Date
Sep 09, 2020
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1865-19.2020
PMID: 32817248


Leptin signaling within the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) contributes to the control of food intake, and injections of leptin into the NTS reduce meal size and increase the efficacy of vagus-mediated satiation signals. Leptin receptors (LepRs) are expressed by vagal afferents as well as by a population of NTS neurons. However, the electrophysiological properties of LepR-expressing NTS neurons have not been well characterized, and it is unclear how leptin might act on these neurons to reduce food intake. To address this question, we recorded from LepR-expressing neurons in horizontal brain slices containing the NTS from male and female LepR-Cre X Rosa-tdTomato mice. We found that the vast majority of NTS LepR neurons received monosynaptic innervation from vagal afferent fibers and LepR neurons exhibited large synaptic NMDA receptor (NMDAR)-mediated currents compared with non-LepR neurons. During high-frequency stimulation of vagal afferents, leptin increased the size of NMDAR-mediated currents, but not AMPAR-mediated currents. Leptin also increased the size of evoked EPSPs and the ability of low-intensity solitary tract stimulation to evoke action potentials in LepR neurons. These effects of leptin were blocked by bath applying a competitive NMDAR antagonist (DCPP-ene) or by an NMDAR channel blocker applied through the recording pipette (MK-801). Last, feeding studies using male rats demonstrate that intra-NTS injections of DCPP-ene attenuate reduction of overnight food intake following intra-NTS leptin injection. Our results suggest that leptin acts in the NTS to reduce food intake by increasing NMDAR-mediated currents, thus enhancing NTS sensitivity to vagal inputs.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Leptin is a hormone that critically impacts food intake and energy homeostasis. The nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) is activated by vagal afferents from the gastrointestinal tract, which promotes termination of a meal. Injection of leptin into the NTS inhibits food intake, while knockdown of leptin receptors (LepRs) in NTS neurons increases food intake. However, little was known about how leptin acts in the NTS neurons to inhibit food intake. We found that leptin increases the sensitivity of LepR-expressing neurons to vagal inputs by increasing NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic currents and that NTS NMDAR activation contributes to leptin-induced reduction of food intake. These findings suggest a novel mechanism by which leptin, acting in the NTS, could potentiate gastrointestinal satiation signals. Copyright © 2020 the authors.

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