Melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH), a cyclic neuropeptide expressed predominantly in the lateral hypothalamus, plays an important role in the control of feeding behavior and energy homeostasis. Mice lacking MCH or MCH1 receptor are resistant to diet-induced obesity (DIO) and MCH1 receptor antagonists show potent anti-obesity effects in preclinical studies, indicating that MCH1 receptor is a promising target for anti-obesity drugs. Moreover, recent studies have suggested the potential of MCH1 receptor antagonists for treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
In the present study, we show the anti-obesity and anti-hepatosteatosis effect of our novel MCH1 receptor antagonist, Compound A. Repeated oral administration of Compound A resulted in dose-dependent body weight reduction and had an anorectic effect in DIO mice. The body weight lowering effect of Compound A was more potent than that of pair-feeding. Compound A also reduced lipid content and the expression level of lipogenesis-, inflammation-, and fibrosis-related genes in the liver of DIO mice. Conversely, intracerebroventricular infusion of MCH caused induction of hepatic steatosis as well as increase in body weight in high-fat diet-fed wild type mice, but not MCH1 receptor knockout mice. The pair-feeding study revealed the MCH-MCH1 receptor system affects hepatic steatosis through a mechanism that is independent of body weight change. Metabolome analysis demonstrated that Compound A upregulated lipid metabolism-related molecules, such as acylcarnitines and cardiolipins, in the liver.
These findings suggest that our novel MCH1 receptor antagonist, Compound A, exerts its beneficial therapeutic effect on NAFLD and obesity through a central MCH-MCH1 receptor pathway.