Hypothalamic fatty acid metabolism: a housekeeping pathway that regulates food intake

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Abstract

Summary

The hypothalamus is a specialized area in the brain that integrates the control of energy homeostasis. More than 70 years ago, it was proposed that the central nervous system sensed circulating levels of metabolites such as glucose, lipids and amino acids and modified feeding according to the levels of those molecules. This led to the formulation of the Glucostatic, Lipostatic and Aminostatic Hypotheses. It has taken almost that much time to demonstrate that circulating long-chain fatty acids act as signals of nutrient surplus in the hypothalamus. Moreover, pharmacological and/or genetic inhibition of fatty acid synthase, AMP-activated protein kinase and carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 results in profound decrease in feeding and body weight in rodents. The molecular mechanism behind these actions depends on changes in the cellular pool of malonyl-CoA and fatty acyl-CoAs. Current evidence also suggests that this pathway may play a major role in the physiological regulation of feeding, by integrating hormonal and nutrient-derived signals in the hypothalamus. Here, we summarize what is known about hypothalamic fatty acid metabolism and feeding control and provide future directions for research. Understanding these molecular mechanisms could provide new targets for the treatment of obesity and related disorders.

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