The ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (VMH) is a key cell group in the medial-basal hypothalamus that participates in the regulation of energy balance. Previous studies have shown that the cellular organization of the VMH is altered in mice with a disruption of the steroidogenic factor-1 (NR5a1) gene (SF-1 KO mice). The present study examined orexigenic/anorexigenic peptides (neuropeptide Y (NPY), agouti-related peptide (AgRP) and cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART)) and neural connections to and from the VMH in SF1 KO mice. NeuroVue tracing and Golgi staining were used to evaluate connections between the preoptic area (POA) and VMH and the orientation of dendrites in the VMH, respectively. Results of this study reveal changes in the cytoarchitecture of the region of the VMH with respect to the distribution of immunoreactive NPY, AgRP and CART. In WT mice projections from the POA normally surround the VMH while in SF-1 KO mice, projections from the POA stream through the region that would otherwise be VMH. Golgi impregnation of the region revealed fewer dendrites with ventrolateral orientations and in general, more variable dendritic orientations in SF-1 KO mice providing additional evidence that the connectivity of cells in the region is likely altered due to the cellular rearrangements consequent to disruption of the NR5a1 gene. In conclusion, this study greatly extends the data showing that the morphology of the regions containing the VMH is disrupted in SF-1 KO mice and suggests that changes in the location of cells or fibers containing NPY, AgRP and CART may, in part, account for changes in body weight homeostasis in these mice.Highlights
□ Structure of the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus is disrupted in SF-1 KO mice. □ Neuropeptide Y and AgRP fibers are displaced in SF-1 KO mice into the VMH region. □ Connections between the preoptic area and the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus are altered SF-1 KO mice. □ Disruption of SF-1 results in alterations of the VMH region that have significant functional and morphological consequences.