Neuropeptide Y (NPY), a peptide of the pancreatic polypeptide family, exerts a potent stimulatory action on eating when injected into the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVN) in rats. Several NPY-containing systems are altered with advancing age, and aged rodents develop anorexia and a modified daily cycle pattern of feeding. These findings suggest that a relationship may exist between the aging-related anorexia and the reduced function of NPY-containing systems projecting to the PVN. In the present study eating and drinking behavior in satiated or fasted young (3 months) and aged (24 months) rats have been investigated over 22 h after NPY injection into the PVN. The levels of NPY immunoreactivity (IR) in PVN were also evaluated by means of semiquantitative immunocytochemistry. NPY injections into PVN increased food and water consumption in both young and aged satiated rats 30, 90 and 240 min after injection. However, the feeding and drinking responses elicited by 0.05, 0.10 and 1.0 nmol of NPY were significantly attenuated in the aged rats when compared to young rats. In aged rats, 24 h of food and water deprivation produced significant increase of food consumption measured at 30, 90 min and 22 h, which was equivalent to that induced by 1.0 nmol NPY injection. Administration of 1.0 nmol NPY in PVN did not further increase the 24 h deprivation effect on feeding in both groups of rats, but enhanced drinking in deprived young rats. This effect was not present in aged rats. In addition, aged rats showed a stronger response to 24 h deprivation than to 1.0 nmol NPY administration. These results and the severe reduction of NPY IR levels in PVN nerve teminals of aged rats suggest that NPY deficiency may be a factor responsible for anorexia in the aged. © 1992.
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