Objective:Mice deficient of the serotonin transporter (5-HTT ko) mice have a reduced brain serotonin content and develop late-onset obesity. To elucidate the pathophysiology of this obesity, we analyzed the expression of the interrelated weight-regulatory molecules: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and leptin receptor (LR) in brain areas associated with nutrition and activity.Research Design and Methods:We investigated feeding behavior, physical activity and metabolic parameters of 5-HTT ko and wild-type mice and measured the expression of BDNF and LR in brain areas associated with nutrition and activity using quantitative real-time PCR. The influence of age, gender and fasting was analyzed.Results:Male 5-HTT ko mice developed obesity without hyperphagia from the age of 5 months. Physical activity was reduced in old male, but not old female, 5-HTT ko mice. The BDNF gene expression in frontal cortex was elevated in young, but reduced in old 5-HTT ko mice. Fasting failed to increase the BDNF gene expression in frontal cortex of young 5 HTT ko mice and in the hypothalamus in old 5-HTT ko mice. The fasting-induced hypothalamic increase of LR was absent in both young and old 5-HTT ko mice.Conclusions:We propose that low brain serotonin level due to the 5-HTT ko genotype leads to reduced physical activity and low BDNF, which together with the lack of fasting-induced hypothalamic BDNF and LR production results in late-onset obesity. Although lack of the 5-HTT is a genetic vulnerability factor for obesity, female gender is protective.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)