Podyma B, Johnson D-A, Sipe L, Remcho TP, Battin K, Liu Y, Yoon SO, Deppmann C, Güler AD. The p75 neurotrophin receptor in AgRP neurons is necessary for homeostatic feeding and food anticipation. Elife. 2020;9.
Networks of neurons control feeding and activity patterns by integrating internal metabolic signals of energy balance with external environmental cues such as time-of-day. Proper circadian alignment of feeding behavior is necessary to prevent metabolic disease, and thus it is imperative that molecular players that maintain neuronal coordination of energy homeostasis are identified. Here, we demonstrate that mice lacking the p75 neurotrophin receptor, p75NTR, decrease their feeding and food anticipatory behavior (FAA) in response to daytime, but not nighttime, restricted feeding. These effects lead to increased weight loss, but do not require p75NTR during development. Instead, p75NTR is required for fasting-induced activation of neurons within the arcuate hypothalamus. Indeed, p75NTR specifically in AgRP neurons is required for FAA in response to daytime restricted feeding. These findings establish p75NTR as a novel regulator gating behavioral response to food scarcity and time-of-day dependence of circadian food anticipation.
Grippo R, Tang Q, Zhang Q, Chadwick S, Gao Y, Altherr E, Sipe L, Purohit A, Purohit N, Sunkara M, et al. Dopamine Signaling in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus Enables Weight Gain Associated with Hedonic Feeding. Curr Biol. 2020;30(2):196-208.e8.
The widespread availability of energy-dense, rewarding foods is correlated with the increased incidence of obesity across the globe. Overeating during mealtimes and unscheduled snacking disrupts timed metabolic processes, which further contribute to weight gain. The neuronal mechanism by which the consumption of energy-dense food restructures the timing of feeding is poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that dopaminergic signaling within the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the central circadian pacemaker, disrupts the timing of feeding, resulting in overconsumption of food. D1 dopamine receptor (Drd1)-null mice are resistant to diet-induced obesity, metabolic disease, and circadian disruption associated with energy-dense diets. Conversely, genetic rescue of Drd1 expression within the SCN restores diet-induced overconsumption, weight gain, and obesogenic symptoms. Access to rewarding food increases SCN dopamine turnover, and elevated Drd1-signaling decreases SCN neuronal activity, which we posit disinhibits downstream orexigenic responses. These findings define a connection between the reward and circadian pathways in the regulation of pathological calorie consumption.


Grippo R, Güler A. Dopamine Signaling in Circadian Photoentrainment: Consequences of Desynchrony. Yale J Biol Med. 2019;92(2):271-281.
Circadian rhythms, or biological oscillations of approximately 24 hours, impact almost all aspects of our lives by regulating the sleep-wake cycle, hormone release, body temperature fluctuation, and timing of food consumption. The molecular machinery governing these rhythms is similar across organisms ranging from unicellular fungi to insects, rodents, and humans. Circadian entrainment, or temporal synchrony with one's environment, is essential for survival. In mammals, the central circadian pacemaker is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus and mediates entrainment to environmental conditions. While the light:dark cycle is the primary environmental cue, arousal-inducing, non-photic signals such as food consumption, exercise, and social interaction are also potent synchronizers. Many of these stimuli enhance dopaminergic signaling suggesting that a cohesive circadian physiology depends on the relationship between circadian clocks and the neuronal circuits responsible for detecting salient events. Here, we review the inner workings of mammalian circadian entrainment, and describe the health consequences of circadian rhythm disruptions with an emphasis on dopamine signaling.


Moraes MN, Assis LVM, Henriques FDS, Batista ML, Güler A, Castrucci AML. Cold-sensing TRPM8 channel participates in circadian control of the brown adipose tissue. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Res. 2017;1864(12):2415-2427.
Transient receptor potential (TRP) channels are known to regulate energy metabolism, and TRPM8 has become an interesting player in this context. Here we demonstrate the role of the cold sensor TRPM8 in the regulation of clock gene and clock controlled genes in brown adipose tissue (BAT). We investigated TrpM8 temporal profile in the eyes, suprachiasmatic nucleus and BAT; only BAT showed temporal variation of TrpM8 transcripts. Eyes from mice lacking TRPM8 lost the temporal profile of Per1 in LD cycle. This alteration in the ocular circadian physiology may explain the delay in the onset of locomotor activity in response to light pulse, as compared to wild type animals (WT). Brown adipocytes from TrpM8 KO mice exhibited a larger multilocularity in comparison to WT or TrpV1 KO mice. In addition, Ucp1 and UCP1 expression was significantly reduced in TrpM8 KO mice in comparison to WT mice. Regarding circadian components, the expression of Per1, Per2, Bmal1, Pparα, and Pparβ oscillated in WT mice kept in LD, whereas in the absence of TRPM8 the expression of clock genes was reduced in amplitude and lack temporal oscillation. Thus, our results reveal new roles for TRPM8 channel: it participates in the regulation of clock and clock-controlled genes in the eyes and BAT, and in BAT thermogenesis. Since disruption of the clock machinery has been associated with many metabolic disorders, the pharmacological modulation of TRPM8 channel may become a promising therapeutic target to counterbalance weight gain, through increased thermogenesis, energy expenditure, and clock gene activation.
Grippo R, Purohit A, Zhang Q, Zweifel L, Güler A. Direct Midbrain Dopamine Input to the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus Accelerates Circadian Entrainment. Curr Biol. 2017;27(16):2465-2475.e3.
Dopamine (DA) neurotransmission controls behaviors important for survival, including voluntary movement, reward processing, and detection of salient events, such as food or mate availability. Dopaminergic tone also influences circadian physiology and behavior. Although the evolutionary significance of this input is appreciated, its precise neurophysiological architecture remains unknown. Here, we identify a novel, direct connection between the DA neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). We demonstrate that D1 dopamine receptor (Drd1) signaling within the SCN is necessary for properly timed resynchronization of activity rhythms to phase-shifted light:dark cycles and that elevation of DA tone through selective activation of VTA DA neurons accelerates photoentrainment. Our findings demonstrate a previously unappreciated role for direct DA input to the master circadian clock and highlight the importance of an evolutionarily significant relationship between the circadian system and the neuromodulatory circuits that govern motivational behaviors.
Moraes MN, Mezzalira N, Assis LVM, Menaker M, Güler AD, Castrucci AM. TRPV1 participates in the activation of clock molecular machinery in the brown adipose tissue in response to light-dark cycle. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Res. 2017;1864(2):324-335.
Transient receptor potential (TRPs) channels are involved in thermogenesis, and temperature and energy balance control. Mice lacking TrpV1 become more obese and develop insulin resistance when fed with high fat diet; however, a relationship between metabolic disorders, TRP channels, and clock genes is still unknown. Based on this, we hypothesized that TRPV1 channels would be involved in the synchronization of clock genes in the peripheral tissues. To address this question, we used wild type (WT) and TrpV1 knockout (KO) mice kept in constant darkness (DD) or in light-dark cycle (LD). In WT mouse brown adipose tissue (BAT), TrpV1 oscillated with higher expression at scotophase, Per1 and Per2 showed the same profile, and Bmal1 transcript only oscillated in DD. Interestingly, the oscillatory profile of these clock genes was abolished in TrpV1 KO mice. WT mouse Ucp1 was upregulated in LD as compared to DD, showing no temporal variation; mice lacking TrpV1 showed Ucp1 oscillation with a peak at the photophase. Remarkably, TrpV1 KO mice displayed less total activity than WT only when submitted to LD. We provide evidence that TRPV1 is an important modulator of BAT clock gene oscillations. Therefore, temperature and/or light-dependent regulation of TRPV1 activity might provide novel pharmacological approaches to treat metabolic disorders.


Wheeler M, Smith C, Ottolini M, Barker B, Purohit A, Grippo R, Gaykema R, Spano A, Beenhakker M, Kucenas S, et al. Genetically targeted magnetic control of the nervous system. Nat Neurosci. 2016;19(5):756-761.
Optogenetic and chemogenetic actuators are critical for deconstructing the neural correlates of behavior. However, these tools have several limitations, including invasive modes of stimulation or slow on/off kinetics. We have overcome these disadvantages by synthesizing a single-component, magnetically sensitive actuator, "Magneto," comprising the cation channel TRPV4 fused to the paramagnetic protein ferritin. We validated noninvasive magnetic control over neuronal activity by demonstrating remote stimulation of cells using in vitro calcium imaging assays, electrophysiological recordings in brain slices, in vivo electrophysiological recordings in the brains of freely moving mice, and behavioral outputs in zebrafish and mice. As proof of concept, we used Magneto to delineate a causal role of striatal dopamine receptor 1 neurons in mediating reward behavior in mice. Together our results present Magneto as an actuator capable of remotely controlling circuits associated with complex animal behaviors.
Warthen D, Lambeth P, Ottolini M, Shi Y, Barker BS, Gaykema R, Newmyer B, Joy-Gaba J, Ohmura Y, Perez-Reyes E, et al. Activation of Pyramidal Neurons in Mouse Medial Prefrontal Cortex Enhances Food-Seeking Behavior While Reducing Impulsivity in the Absence of an Effect on Food Intake. Front Behav Neurosci. 2016;10:63.
The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is involved in a wide range of executive cognitive functions, including reward evaluation, decision-making, memory extinction, mood, and task switching. Manipulation of the mPFC has been shown to alter food intake and food reward valuation, but whether exclusive stimulation of mPFC pyramidal neurons (PN), which form the principle output of the mPFC, is sufficient to mediate food rewarded instrumental behavior is unknown. We sought to determine the behavioral consequences of manipulating mPFC output by exciting PN in mouse mPFC during performance of a panel of behavioral assays, focusing on food reward. We found that increasing mPFC pyramidal cell output using designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADD) enhanced performance in instrumental food reward assays that assess food seeking behavior, while sparing effects on affect and food intake. Specifically, activation of mPFC PN enhanced operant responding for food reward, reinstatement of palatable food seeking, and suppression of impulsive responding for food reward. Conversely, activation of mPFC PN had no effect on unconditioned food intake, social interaction, or behavior in an open field. Furthermore, we found that behavioral outcome is influenced by the degree of mPFC activation, with a low drive sufficient to enhance operant responding and a higher drive required to alter impulsivity. Additionally, we provide data demonstrating that DREADD stimulation involves a nitric oxide (NO) synthase dependent pathway, similar to endogenous muscarinic M3 receptor stimulation, a finding that provides novel mechanistic insight into an increasingly widespread method of remote neuronal control.


Pang Z, Sakamoto T, Tiwari V, Kim Y-S, Yang F, Dong X, Güler A, Guan Y, Caterina M. Selective keratinocyte stimulation is sufficient to evoke nociception in mice. Pain. 2015;156(4):656-65.
The skin epidermis is densely innervated by peripheral sensory nerve endings. Nociceptive neurons, whose terminals are in close contact with epidermal keratinocytes, can be activated directly by noxious physical and chemical stimuli to trigger pain. However, whether keratinocytes can signal acutely to sensory nerve terminals to initiate pain in vivo remains unclear. Here, using the keratin 5 promoter to selectively express the capsaicin receptor TRPV1 in keratinocytes of TRPV1-knockout mice, we achieved specific stimulation of keratinocytes with capsaicin. Using this approach, we found that keratinocyte stimulation was sufficient to induce strong expression of the neuronal activation marker, c-fos, in laminae I and II of the ipsilateral spinal cord dorsal horn and to evoke acute paw-licking nocifensive behavior and conditioned place aversion. These data provide direct evidence that keratinocyte stimulation is sufficient to evoke acute nociception-related responses.