Divergent regulation of hypothalamic neuropeptide Y and agouti-related protein by photoperiod in F344 rats with differential food intake and growth

Alexander Ross, C. E. Johnson, Lynn Bell, L. Reilly, Jacqueline Duncan, Perry Barrett, P. D. Heideman, Peter John Morgan

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48 Citations (Scopus)


Hypothalamic genes involved in food intake and growth regulation were studied in F344 rats in response to photoperiod. Two sub-strains were identified: F344/NHsd (F344/N) and F344/NCrHsd (F344/NCr); sensitive and relatively insensitive to photoperiod respectively. In F344/N rats, marked, but opposite, changes in the genes for neuropeptide Y (NPY) (+97.5%) and agouti-related protein (AgRP) (-39.3%) expression in the arcuate nucleus were observed in response to short (8 : 16 h light/dark cycle, SD) relative to long (16 : 8 h light/dark cycle, LD) day photoperiods. Changes were associated with both reduced food intake and growth. Expression of the genes for cocaine and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) and pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) in the arcuate nucleus was unchanged by photoperiod. POMC in the ependymal layer around the third ventricle was markedly inhibited by SD. Parallel decreases in the genes for growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) and somatostatin (Somatostatin) mRNA in the arcuate nucleus and Somatostatin in the periventricular nucleus were observed in SD. Serum levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 and insulin were lower in F344/N rats in SD, whereas neither leptin nor corticosterone levels were affected. By contrast, F344/NCr rats that show only minor food intake and growth rate changes showed minimal responses in these genes and hormones. Thus, NPY/AgRP neurones may be pivotal to the photoperiodic regulation of food intake and growth. Potentially, the SD increase in NPY expression may inhibit growth by decreasing GHRH and Somatostatin expression, whereas the decrease in AgRP expression probably leads to reduced food intake. The present study reveals an atypical and divergent regulation of NPY and AgRP, which may relate to their separate roles with respect to growth and food intake, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-619
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


  • NPY
  • POMC
  • GHRH
  • somatostatin
  • melatonin
  • AgRP
  • messenger-ribonucleic-acid
  • hormone-releasing-hormone
  • male siberian hamster
  • factor-I secretion
  • adult male rats
  • body-weight
  • gene-expression
  • arcuate nucleus
  • pineal-gland
  • lateral ventricle
  • male Siberian hamster


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