Objectives In the ob/ob mouse model of obesity, chronic absence of leptin causes a significant increase of orexin (OX) production by hypothalamic neurons and excessive food intake. The altered OX level is linked to a dramatic increase of the inhibitory innervation of OX producing neurons (OX neurons) and the over expression of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) by OX neurons of ob/ob mice. Little is known about the function of the excitatory synapses of OX neurons in ob/ob mice, and their modulation by 2-AG. In the present study, we fill this gap and provide the first evidence of the overall level of activation of OX neurons in the ob/ob mice. Methods We performed in vitro whole-cell patch-clamp recordings on OX neurons located in the perifornical area of the lateral hypothalamus in acute brain slices of wt and ob/ob mice. We identified OX neurons on the basis of their electrophysiological membrane properties, with 96% of concordance with immunohistochemisty. Results We found that OX neurons of ob/ob mice are innervated by less efficient and fewer excitatory synapses than wt mice. Consequently, ob/ob OX neurons show more negative resting membrane potential and lower action potential firing frequency than wt. The bath application of the cannabinoid type-1 receptor agonist WIN55,212-2, depresses both the excitatory and the inhibitory synapses in ob/ob animals, but only the excitatory synapses in wt animals. Finally, the physiologic release of 2-AG induces a prevalent depression of inhibition (disinhibition) of OX neurons in ob/ob animals but not in wt. Conclusions In ob/ob mice, chronic absence of leptin induces a 2-AG mediated functional disinhibition of OX neurons. This helps explain the increase of OX production and, consequently, the excessive food intake of ob/ob mice.
Becker, T. M., Favero, M., Di Marzo, V., Cristino, L., & Busetto, G. (2017). Endocannabinoid-dependent disinhibition of orexinergic neurons: Electrophysiological evidence in leptin-knockout obese mice. Molecular Metabolism, 6(6), 594–601. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molmet.2017.04.005