GLP-1 modulates the supramammillary nucleus-lateral hypothalamic neurocircuit to control ingestive and motivated behavior in a sex divergent manner

Lorena López-Ferreras, Kim Eerola, Devesh Mishra, Olesya T. Shevchouk, Jennifer E. Richard, Fredrik H. Nilsson, Matthew R. Hayes, Karolina P. Skibicka

Excessive food intake, especially of palatable calorically dense foods, is implicated to be the major culprit behind weight gain. It has been suggested that the supramamillary nucleus (SuM) could regulate ingestive and motivated behavior. López-Ferreras and colleagues found that the SuM potently contributes to ingestive and motivated behavior control, an effect contingent on sex, diet, homeostatic energy balance state, and behavior of interest.

Objective: The supramammillary nucleus (SuM) is nestled between the lateral hypothalamus (LH) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA). This neuroanatomical position is consistent with a potential role of this nucleus to regulate ingestive and motivated behavior. Here neuroanatomical, molecular, and behavior approaches are utilized to determine whether SuM contributes to ingestive and food-motivated behavior control.

Methods: Through the application of anterograde and retrograde neural tract tracing with novel designer viral vectors, the current findings show that SuM neurons densely innervate the LH in a sex dimorphic fashion. Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is a clinically targeted neuro-intestinal hormone with a well-established role in regulating energy balance and reward behaviors. Here we determine that GLP-1 receptors (GLP-1R) are expressed throughout the SuM of both sexes, and also directly on SuM LH-projecting neurons and investigate the role of SuM GLP-1R in the regulation of ingestive and motivated behavior in male and female rats.

Results: SuM microinjections of the GLP-1 analogue, exendin-4, reduced ad libitum intake of chow, fat, or sugar solution in both male and female rats, while food-motivated behaviors, measured using the sucrose motivated operant conditioning test, was only reduced in male rats. These data contrasted with the results obtained from a neighboring structure well known for its role in motivation and reward, the VTA, where females displayed a more potent response to GLP-1R activation by exendin-4. In order to determine the physiological role of SuM GLP-1R signaling regulation of energy balance, we utilized an adeno-associated viral vector to site-specifically deliver shRNA for the GLP-1R to the SuM. Surprisingly, and in contrast to previous results for the two SuM neighboring sites, LH and VTA, SuM GLP-1R knockdown increased food seeking and adiposity in obese male rats without altering food intake, body weight or food motivation in lean or obese, female or male rats.

Conclusions: Taken together, these results indicate that SuM potently contributes to ingestive and motivated behavior control; an effect contingent on sex, diet/homeostatic energy balance state and behavior of interest. These data also extend the map of brain sites directly responsive to GLP-1 agonists, and highlight key differences in the role that GLP-1R play in interconnected and neighboring nuclei.