The regulation of seasonal changes in food intake and body weight

F. J. P. Ebling, Perry Barrett

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

112 Citations (Scopus)


Seasonal rhythms of body weight, reflecting altered food intake, energy storage and expenditure, are a common feature of mammals inhabiting temperate and arctic latitudes. They have evolved so that predictable annual changes in the external environment can be anticipated and animals can adjust their physiology and behaviour in preparation for the changing demands of the seasons. These long-term changes in energy balance are not simply effected by the brain centres and peptidergic pathways known to underlie short-term homeostatic regulation. Screens of altered gene expression in Siberian hamsters comparing the anabolic summer state in long photoperiods and the catabolic 'winter' state in short photoperiods have identified differential gene expression in the hypothalamus. The majority of gene expression changes are confined to two restricted areas: the dorsomedial posterior arcuate nucleus, and the ventral ependymal layer of the third ventricle. Functions encoded by these 'seasonal' genes include thyroid hormone metabolism, retinoic acid and histaminergic signalling, and VGF and secretogranin production. The changes in thyroid hormone availability that are brought about by differential activity of deiodinase enzymes are of particular importance because experimental manipulation of central thyroid levels can prevent seasonal cyclicity. Given the importance of thyroid hormone in the initial development of the brain, we hypothesise that thyroid hormone-dependent plasticity of hypothalamic connections and neurogenesis underlie seasonal cycles of food intake and body weight.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827-833
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


  • photoperiod
  • energy balance
  • thyroid
  • circannual
  • hamster
  • iodomelatonin-binding-sites
  • hamster phodopus-sungorus
  • H-3 receptor antagonist
  • male Siberian hamster
  • male Syrian-hamsters
  • photoperiodic regulation
  • energy-balance
  • brain-development
  • arcuate nucleus
  • nervous-system


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