Many people use smoking as a mechanism to suppresses appetite and control their body weight. Nicotine in cigarettes is the culprit, affecting peripheral energy expenditures, but also affecting the central nervous system to regulate feeding. Mineur et. al.(Science 332:1330-1332) have now uncovered some the of the molecular steps involved in nicotine-induced anorexia. In mouse models, nicotine binds to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) in the arcuate nucleus (ARC) region of the brain. Here it activates the pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons that begin to fire more frequently. This stimulates downstream melanocortin 4 receptors, ultimately releasing melanocortin, a known inhibitor of feeding behavior. The hope is that this work can lead to the development of new therapy to treat obesity and other metabolic syndromes.
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