Sites and sources of sympathoexcitation in obese male rats: role of brain insulin

Zhigang Shi, Ding Zhao, Priscila A. Cassaglia, Virginia L. Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


In males, obesity increases sympathetic nerve activity (SNA), but the mechanisms are unclear. Here, we investigate insulin, via an action in the arcuate nucleus (ArcN), and downstream neuropathways, including melanocortin receptor 3/4 (MC3/4R) in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and dorsal medial hypothalamus (DMH). We studied conscious and α-chloralose-anesthetized Sprague-Dawley rats fed a high-fat diet, which causes obesity prone (OP) rats to accrue excess fat and obesity-resistant (OR) rats to maintain fat content, similar to rats fed a standard control (CON) diet. Nonspecific blockade of the ArcN with muscimol and specific blockade of ArcN insulin receptors (InsR) decreased lumbar SNA (LSNA), heart rate (HR), and mean arterial pressure (MAP) in OP, but not OR or CON, rats, indicating that insulin supports LSNA in obese males. In conscious rats, intracerebroventricular infusion of insulin increased MAP only in OP rats and also improved HR baroreflex function from subnormal to supranormal. The brain sensitization to insulin may elucidate how insulin can drive central SNA pathways when transport of insulin across the blood-brain barrier may be impaired. Blockade of PVN, but not DMH, MC3/4R with SHU9119 decreased LSNA, HR, and, MAP in OP, but not OR or CON, rats. Interestingly, nanoinjection of the MC3/4R agonist melanotan II (MTII) into the PVN increased LSNA only in OP rats, similar to PVN MTII-induced increases in LSNA in CON rats after blockade of sympathoinhibitory neuropeptide Y Y1 receptors. ArcN InsR expression was not increased in OP rats. Collectively, these data indicate that obesity increases SNA, in part via increased InsR signaling and downstream PVN MC3/4R.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R634-R648
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • arcuate nucleus
  • insulin
  • obesity
  • paraventricular nucleus
  • sympathetic nerve activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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