Rats selectively bred to develop diet-induced obesity (DIO) have an early onset reduction in the sensitivity of their ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus (VMN) neurons to leptin compared with diet-resistant (DR) rats. This reduced sensitivity includes decreased leptin receptor (Lepr-b) mRNA expression, leptin receptor binding, leptin-induced phosphorylation of STAT3 (pSTAT3), and impaired leptin excitation (LepE) of VMN neurons. When administered exogenously, the pancreatic peptide, amylin, acts synergistically to reduce food intake and body weight in obese, leptin-resistant DIO rats by increasing VMN leptin signaling, likely by stimulation of microglia IL-6, which acts on its receptor to increase leptin-induced pSTAT3. Here, we demonstrate that incubation of cultured VMN neurons of outbred rats with IL-6 increases their leptin sensitivity. Control, dissociated DIO VMN neurons express 66% less Lepr-b and 75% less Bardet Biedl Syndrome-6 (BBS6) mRNA and have reduced leptin-induced activation of LepE neurons compared with DR neurons. Incubation for 4 days with IL-6 increased DIO neuron Lepr-b expression by 77% and BBS6 by 290% and corrected their defective leptin activation of LepE neurons to DR levels. Since BBS6 enhances trafficking of Lepr-b to the cell membrane, the increases in Lepr-b and BBS6 expression appear to account for correction of the reduced leptin excitation of DIO LepE neurons to that of control DR rats. These data support prior findings suggesting that IL-6 mediates the leptin-sensitizing effects of amylin on VMN neurons and that the inherent leptin resistance of DIO rats can be effectively reversed at a cellular level by IL-6.
- diet-induced obesity
- leptin sensitivity
- leptin signaling
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