Neuroanatomical organization and functional roles of PVN MC4R pathways in physiological and behavioral regulations

Uday Singh, Jingwei Jiang, Kenji Saito, Brandon A. Toth, Jacob E. Dickey, Samuel R. Rodeghiero, Yue Deng, Guorui Deng, Baojian Xue, Zhiyong Zhu, Leonid V. Zingman, Joel C. Geerling, Huxing Cui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: The paraventricular nucleus of hypothalamus (PVN), an integrative center in the brain, orchestrates a wide range of physiological and behavioral responses. While the PVN melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) signaling (PVNMC4R+) is involved in feeding regulation, the neuroanatomical organization of PVNMC4R+ connectivity and its role in other physiological regulations are incompletely understood. Here we aimed to better characterize the input–output organization of PVNMC4R+ neurons and test their physiological functions beyond feeding. Methods: Using a combination of viral tools, we mapped PVNMC4R+ circuits and tested the effects of chemogenetic activation of PVNMC4R+ neurons on thermoregulation, cardiovascular control, and other behavioral responses beyond feeding. Results: We found that PVNMC4R+ neurons innervate many different brain regions that are known to be important not only for feeding but also for neuroendocrine and autonomic control of thermoregulation and cardiovascular function, including but not limited to the preoptic area, median eminence, parabrachial nucleus, pre-locus coeruleus, nucleus of solitary tract, ventrolateral medulla, and thoracic spinal cord. Contrary to these broad efferent projections, PVNMC4R+ neurons receive monosynaptic inputs mainly from other hypothalamic nuclei (preoptic area, arcuate and dorsomedial hypothalamic nuclei, supraoptic nucleus, and premammillary nucleus), the circumventricular organs (subfornical organ and vascular organ of lamina terminalis), the bed nucleus of stria terminalis, and the parabrachial nucleus. Consistent with their broad efferent projections, chemogenetic activation of PVNMC4R+ neurons not only suppressed feeding but also led to an apparent increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and brown adipose tissue temperature. These physiological changes accompanied acute transient hyperactivity followed by hypoactivity and resting-like behavior. Conclusions: Our results elucidate the neuroanatomical organization of PVNMC4R+ circuits and shed new light on the roles of PVNMC4R+ pathways in autonomic control of thermoregulation, cardiovascular function, and biphasic behavioral activation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101401
JournalMolecular Metabolism
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood pressure
  • Melanocortin 4 receptor
  • Paraventricular nucleus of hypothalamus
  • Sympathetic nervous activity
  • Thermoregulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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