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Keywords:

  • appetite;
  • brown adipose tissue;
  • melanin concentrating hormone;
  • neurotrophic viruses;
  • orexins

Abstract

The concept of ‘command neurons’, whereby single neurons mediate complex and complementary motor functions to generate a stereotyped behaviour, is well developed in invertebrate physiology. The term has also been adopted more recently to explain the neural basis of ‘fight or flight’. In this study we have investigated the possibility that single lateral hypothalamic neurons have the necessary neuroanatomical connections to coordinate two complementary limbs of body weight control, feeding and thermogenesis, thereby acting as ‘command neurons’. The transynaptic retrograde transport of pseudorabies virus (Bartha) from a thermogenic endpoint in the brown adipose tissue of rats has been used in conjunction with other neuronal tracers, introduced into putative CNS feeding centres, to assess the potential for the involvement of command neurons in coordinating these processes. In discrete regions of the lateral hypothalamus, neurons have been identified which have the necessary complement of orexigenic peptides and collateral branching axons to both putative feeding sites and thermogenic sites in brown fat to qualify as candidate central command neurons controlling body weight.