Gpr17 deficiency in POMC neurons ameliorates the metabolic derangements caused by long-term high-fat diet feeding

Austin M. Reilly, Shudi Zhou, Sunil K. Panigrahi, Shijun Yan, Jason M. Conley, Patrick L. Sheets, Sharon L. Wardlaw, Hongxia Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARH) control energy homeostasis by sensing hormonal and nutrient cues and activating secondary melanocortin sensing neurons. We identified the expression of a G protein-coupled receptor, Gpr17, in the ARH and hypothesized that it contributes to the regulatory function of POMC neurons on metabolism. Methods: In order to test this hypothesis, we generated POMC neuron-specific Gpr17 knockout (PGKO) mice and determined their energy and glucose metabolic phenotypes on normal chow diet (NCD) and high-fat diet (HFD). Results: Adult PGKO mice on NCD displayed comparable body composition and metabolic features measured by indirect calorimetry. By contrast, PGKO mice on HFD demonstrated a sexually dimorphic phenotype with female PGKO mice displaying better metabolic homeostasis. Notably, female PGKO mice gained significantly less body weight and adiposity (p < 0.01), which was associated with increased energy expenditure, locomotor activity, and respiratory quotient, while males did not have an overt change in energy homeostasis. Though PGKO mice of both sexes had comparable glucose and insulin tolerance, detailed analyses of liver gene expression and serum metabolites indicate that PGKO mice could have reduced gluconeogenesis and increased lipid utilization on HFD. To elucidate the central-based mechanism(s) underlying the better-preserved energy and glucose homeostasis in PGKO mice on HFD, we examined the electrophysiological properties of POMC neurons and found Gpr17 deficiency led to increased spontaneous action potentials. Moreover, PGKO mice, especially female knockouts, had increased POMC-derived alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone and beta-endorphin despite a comparable level of prohormone POMC in their hypothalamic extracts. Conclusions: Gpr17 deficiency in POMC neurons protects metabolic homeostasis in a sex-dependent manner during dietary and aging challenges, suggesting that Gpr17 could be an effective anti-obesity target in specific populations with poor metabolic control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number29
JournalNutrition and Diabetes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

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