It has been claimed that factors favoring the development or maintenance of animal or human obesity may include increases in glucocorticoid production or hyperresponsiveness of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. In normal rats, glucocorticoids have been shown to be necessary for chronic intracerebroventricular infusion of neuropeptide Y to produce obesity and related abnormalities. Conversely, glucocorticoids inhibited the body weight-lowering effect of leptin. Such dual action of glucocorticoids may occur within the central nervous system, since both neuropeptide Y and leptin act within the hypothalamus. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of glucocorticoids (dexamethasone) given intracerebroventricularly to normal rats on body weight homeostasis and hypothalamic levels of neuropeptide Y and corticotropin-releasing hormone. Continuous central glucocorticoid infusion for 3 days resulted in marked sustained increases in food intake and body weight relative to saline-infused controls. The infusion abolished endogenous corticosterone output and produced hyperinsulinemia, hypertriglyceridemia, and hyperleptinemia, three salient abnormalities of obesity syndromes. Central glucocorticoid infusion also produced a marked decrease in the expression of uncoupling protein (UCP)-1 and UCP-3 in brown adipose tissue and UCP-3 in muscle. Finally, chronic central glucocorticoid administration increased the hypothalamic levels of neuropeptide Y and decreased those of corticotropin-releasing hormone. When the same dose of glucocorticoids was administered peripherally, it resulted in decreases in food intake and body weight, in keeping with the decrease in hypothalamic neuropeptide Y levels. These results suggest that glucocorticoids induce an obesity syndrome in rodents by acting centrally and not peripherally.

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