Growth and differentiation factor 15 (GDF15), an anorexigenic peptide that represents a promising candidate for anti-obesity treatment, acts via GDNF Family Receptor Alpha Like (GFRAL), which is expressed almost exclusively on a subset of neurons in the area postrema (AP). To determine the function and mechanisms of action for GFRAL neurons, we generated Gfralcre and conditional GfralCreERT mice. Although their chemogenetic (DREADD-mediated) activation promoted FOS in a variety of brainstem, hypothalamic, and limbic nuclei, GFRAL neurons projected only to the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) and the parabrachial nucleus (PBN), where they innervated and activated aversive/anorexigenic GCRP-expressing cells. Tetanus-toxin-mediated silencing of PBN CGRP neurons abrogated the aversive and anorexic effects of GDF15. Furthermore, while non-gastrointestinal (GI) stimuli (e.g., GDF15 and LPS, but not feeding or gut peptide mimetics) activated GFRAL neurons, chemogenetically activating these cells decreased gastric emptying, suppressed feeding, and promoted a conditioned taste aversion. These findings suggest that GFRAL neurons link non-GI anorexigenic signals to the control of gut physiology and to the aversive suppression of food intake. Additionally, because the chemogenetic activation of GFRAL neurons suppressed food intake more strongly than GDF15 in lean mice, additional modes of activating GFRAL neurons may augment the anorectic potential of GDF15.
P.V. Sabatini: None. R.J. Seeley: Consultant; Self; Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Kintai, Kintai, Novo Nordisk A/S, Sanofi, Scohia Pharma Inc. Research Support; Self; AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk A/S, Pfizer Inc. Stock/Shareholder; Self; Redesign Health.
American Diabetes Association (1-19-PDF-099 to P.V.S.)