Central NPFF signalling is critical in the regulation of glucose homeostasis

Lei Zhang, Julia Koller, Gopana Gopalasingam, Yue Qi, Herbert Herzog


Neuropeptide FF (NPFF) group peptides belong to the evolutionary conserved RF-amide peptide family. While they have been assigned a role as pain modulators, their roles in other aspects of physiology have received much less attention. NPFF peptides and their receptor NPFFR2 have strong and localized expression within the dorsal vagal complex that has emerged as the key centre for regulating glucose homeostasis. Therefore, we investigated the role of the NPFF system in the control of glucose metabolism and the histochemical and molecular identities of NPFF and NPFFR2 neurons.


We examined glucose metabolism in Npff−/− and wild type (WT) mice using intraperitoneal (i.p.) glucose tolerance and insulin tolerance tests. Body composition and glucose tolerance was further examined in mice after 1-week and 3-week of high-fat diet (HFD). Using RNAScope double ISH, we investigated the neurochemical identity of NPFF and NPFFR2 neurons in the caudal brainstem, and the expression of receptors for peripheral factors in NPFF neurons.


Lack of NPFF signalling in mice leads to improved glucose tolerance without significant impact on insulin excursion after the i.p. glucose challenge. In response to an i.p. bolus of insulin, Npff−/− mice have lower glucose excursions than WT mice, indicating an enhanced insulin action. Moreover, while HFD has rapid and potent detrimental effects on glucose tolerance, this diet-induced glucose intolerance is ameliorated in mice lacking NPFF signalling. This occurs in the absence of any significant impact of NPFF deletion on lean or fat masses, suggesting a direct effect of NPFF signalling on glucose metabolism. We further reveal that NPFF neurons in the subpostrema area (SubP) co-express receptors for peripheral factors involved in glucose homeostasis regulation such as insulin and GLP1. Furthermore, Npffr2 is expressed in the glutamatergic NPFF neurons in the SubP, and in cholinergic neurons of the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (DMV), indicating that central NPFF signalling is likely modulating vagal output to innervated peripheral tissues including those important for glucose metabolic control.


NPFF signalling plays an important role in the regulation of glucose metabolism. NPFF neurons in the SubP are likely to receive peripheral signals and mediate the control of whole-body glucose homeostasis via centrally vagal pathways. Targeting NPFF and NPFFR2 signalling may provide a new avenue for treating type 2 diabetes and obesity.