Research Article: Hypothalamic Sirt1 Regulates Food Intake in a Rodent Model System

Date Published: December 15, 2009

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Işin Çakir, Mario Perello, Omar Lansari, Norma J. Messier, Charles A. Vaslet, Eduardo A. Nillni, Aimin Xu.

Abstract: Sirt1 is an evolutionarily conserved NAD+ dependent deacetylase involved in a wide range of processes including cellular differentiation, apoptosis, as well as metabolism, and aging. In this study, we investigated the role of hypothalamic Sirt1 in energy balance. Pharmacological inhibition or siRNA mediated knock down of hypothalamic Sirt1 showed to decrease food intake and body weight gain. Central administration of a specific melanocortin antagonist, SHU9119, reversed the anorectic effect of hypothalamic Sirt1 inhibition, suggesting that Sirt1 regulates food intake through the central melanocortin signaling. We also showed that fasting increases hypothalamic Sirt1 expression and decreases FoxO1 (Forkhead transcription factor) acetylation suggesting that Sirt1 regulates the central melanocortin system in a FoxO1 dependent manner. In addition, hypothalamic Sirt1 showed to regulate S6K signaling such that inhibition of the fasting induced Sirt1 activity results in up-regulation of the S6K pathway. Thus, this is the first study providing a novel role for the hypothalamic Sirt1 in the regulation of food intake and body weight. Given the role of Sirt1 in several peripheral tissues and hypothalamus, potential therapies centered on Sirt1 regulation might provide promising therapies in the treatment of metabolic diseases including obesity.

Partial Text: Sirt1 is an evolutionarily conserved NAD+-dependent deacetylase involved in a wide range of metabolic processes in the periphery [1]. In the liver, Sirt1 deacetylates and activates the transcriptional co-activator PGC1-alpha and the transcription factor FoxO1 to promote gluconeogenesis [2], [3]. In the adipose tissue, Sirt1 triggers fat mobilization by inhibiting peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR-gamma), and in the pancreas repression of the uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) by Sirt1 increases insulin secretion [1]. Sirt1 expression as well as its activity is nutrient sensitive. For example, in the liver, the Sirt1 protein level increases upon fasting [3] and decreases by high fat diet [4]. Sirt1 action in the central nervous system has been studied as well. Sirt1 has neuroprotective effects. For example, increased nuclear NAD biosynthesis and Sirt1 activation are linked to axonal protection [5], and hippocampus over expression of Sirt1 provides protection against neurodegeneration in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease [6]. Sirt1 showed to be important in the regulation of stem cells to generate either astroglial lineage or the neuronal lineage [7]. At a global scale Sirt1 target genes in the mouse brain are deregulated by aging. This situation (at the gene expression level) can be reversed by specific over expression of central Sirt1 [8]. Brain Sirt1 expression increases by caloric restriction [9], and fasting was shown to increase brain Sirt1 protein content specifically in the hypothalamus [10]. A better understanding of hypothalamic Sirt1 action is of crucial importance since the hypothalamus is the primary brain center that interprets adiposity or nutrient related inputs to regulate energy homeostasis. Specifically, the anorexigenic proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons and the orexigenic NPY/AgRP neurons in the arcuate nucleus (ARC) of the hypothalamus are the major regulators of feeding and energy expenditure [11]. Although the Sirt1 expression in POMC neurons has been reported [10], its functional role in the hypothalamus has not been determined. Hypothalamic control of food intake and body weight involves the action of metabolic sensors including the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) [12] and AMP activated kinase (AMPK) [13]. Because of its dependence on NAD+, Sirt1 also functions as a metabolic sensor [14]. Therefore, we hypothesized that hypothalamic Sirt1 represents another metabolic factor controlling food intake. Using the rat as a physiological in vivo model we found that ablation of Sirt1 activity or knocking-down Sirt1 gene expression at the hypothalamic level resulted in decreased food intake and body weight gain. Blocking the melanocortin receptors with the melanocortin antagonist SHU9119 attenuated the anorectic effect of Sirt1 inhibition. Fasting increased hypothalamic NAD+ levels and Sirt1 protein content. Inhibition of hypothalamic Sirt1 activity reversed the fasting induced decrease of FoxO1 acetylation, and resulted in increased POMC and decreased AgRP expressions. Regulation of POMC by Sirt1 depends on FoxO1 as shown utilizing in vivo and in vitro approaches. We also present data showing that hypothalamic Sirt1 regulates S6K signaling. Thus, targeting central Sirt1 signaling may show promise for the treatment of obesity and the associated disorders.

In this study, we present data supporting the hypothesis that fasting induced hyperphagia requires hypothalamic Sirt1 activity. This conclusion is consistent with the observation that Sirt1 protein levels and activity were increasing in fasted mouse [10] and rat hypothalamus. Several lines of evidence in our study demonstrate that the hypothalamic action of Sirt1 is to regulate food intake and body weight. First, the EX527 treated rats had decreased food intake and body weight gain. These animals’ weight gain was less than their pair-fed counterparts suggesting that the decreased in weight gain was not exclusively due to the reduced food intake. Second, Sirt1 showed to regulate the expression of AgRP and POMC. The POMC derived peptide α-MSH decreases food intake, and promotes energy expenditure through melanocortin receptors [35] and activation of HPT axis [21]. AgRP, on the other hand, is a strong antagonist of the melanocortin receptors, and blocks α-MSH action. Blocking the melanocortin receptors consistently abolished the decreased food intake and body weight gain in hypothalamic Sirt1 inhibited animals, showing that melanocortin receptors mediate the effect of Sirt1 on energy balance. Third, inhibition of hypothalamic Sirt1 resulted in increased levels of serum thyroid hormones, which are strong stimulators of basic metabolic rate and thermogenesis.



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