Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Hypothalamus


Cushing disease (CD) is a life-threatening disorder attributed to excess pituitary tumor-derived adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) and adrenal steroid secretion caused by pituitary tumors. Whereas CD was first described in 1932, the underlying genetic basis driving tumor growth and ACTH secretion remains unsolved. Here, we show that testicular orphan nuclear receptor 4 (TR4, nuclear receptor subfamily 2, group C, member 2) is overexpressed in human corticotroph tumors as well as in human and mouse corticotroph tumor cell lines. Forced overexpression of TR4 in both human and murine tumor cells increased proopiomelanocortin transcription, ACTH secretion, cellular proliferation, and tumor invasion rates in vitro. Conversely, knockdown of TR4 expression reversed all phenotypes. Mechanistically, we show that TR4 transcriptionally activates proopiomelanocortin through binding of a direct repeat 1 response element in the promoter, and that this is enhanced by MAPK-mediated TR4 phosphorylation. In vivo, TR4 overexpression promotes murine corticotroph tumor growth as well as enhances ACTH and corticosterone production, whereas TR4 knockdown decreases circulating ACTH and corticosterone levels in mice harboring ACTH-secreting tumors. Our findings directly link TR4 to the etiology of corticotroph tumors, hormone secretion, and cell growth as well as identify it as a potential target in the treatment of CD.

Concepts: Gene, Hypothalamus, Gene expression, Cancer, Tumor, Cortisol, Adrenocorticotropic hormone, Adrenal cortex


Estrogen withdrawal in menopausal women leads to hot flushes, a syndrome characterized by the episodic activation of heat dissipation effectors. Despite the extraordinary number of individuals affected, the etiology of flushes remains an enigma. Because menopause is accompanied by marked alterations in hypothalamic kisspeptin/neurokinin B/dynorphin (KNDy) neurons, we hypothesized that these neurons could contribute to the generation of flushes. To determine if KNDy neurons participate in the regulation of body temperature, we evaluated the thermoregulatory effects of ablating KNDy neurons by injecting a selective toxin for neurokinin-3 expressing neurons [NK(3)-saporin (SAP)] into the rat arcuate nucleus. Remarkably, KNDy neuron ablation consistently reduced tail-skin temperature (T(SKIN)), indicating that KNDy neurons facilitate cutaneous vasodilatation, an important heat dissipation effector. Moreover, KNDy ablation blocked the reduction of T(SKIN) by 17β-estradiol (E(2)), which occurred in the environmental chamber during the light phase, but did not affect the E(2) suppression of T(SKIN) during the dark phase. At the high ambient temperature of 33 °C, the average core temperature (T(CORE)) of ovariectomized (OVX) control rats was significantly elevated, and this value was reduced by E(2) replacement. In contrast, the average T(CORE) of OVX, KNDy-ablated rats was lower than OVX control rats at 33 °C, and not altered by E(2) replacement. These data provide unique evidence that KNDy neurons promote cutaneous vasodilatation and participate in the E(2) modulation of body temperature. Because cutaneous vasodilatation is a cardinal sign of a hot flush, these results support the hypothesis that KNDy neurons could play a role in the generation of flushes.

Concepts: Hypothalamus, Medical terms, Menopause, Estrogen, Thermoregulation, Temperature, Heat, Hot flash


Genetic suppression of insulin/insulin-like growth factor signaling (IIS) can extend longevity in worms, insects, and mammals. In laboratory mice, mutations with the greatest, most consistent, and best documented positive impact on lifespan are those that disrupt growth hormone (GH) release or actions. These mutations lead to major alterations in IIS but also have a variety of effects that are not directly related to the actions of insulin or insulin-like growth factor I. Long-lived GH-resistant GHR-KO mice with targeted disruption of the GH receptor gene, as well as Ames dwarf (Prop1(df)) and Snell dwarf (Pit1(dw)) mice lacking GH (along with prolactin and TSH), are diminutive in size and have major alterations in body composition and metabolic parameters including increased subcutaneous adiposity, increased relative brain weight, small liver, hypoinsulinemia, mild hypoglycemia, increased adiponectin levels and insulin sensitivity, and reduced serum lipids. Body temperature is reduced in Ames, Snell, and female GHR-KO mice. Indirect calorimetry revealed that both Ames dwarf and GHR-KO mice utilize more oxygen per gram (g) of body weight than sex- and age-matched normal animals from the same strain. They also have reduced respiratory quotient, implying greater reliance on fats, as opposed to carbohydrates, as an energy source. Differences in oxygen consumption (VO(2)) were seen in animals fed or fasted during the measurements as well as in animals that had been exposed to 30% calorie restriction or every-other-day feeding. However, at the thermoneutral temperature of 30°C, VO(2) did not differ between GHR-KO and normal mice. Thus, the increased metabolic rate of the GHR-KO mice, at a standard animal room temperature of 23°C, is apparently related to increased energy demands for thermoregulation in these diminutive animals. We suspect that increased oxidative metabolism combined with enhanced fatty acid oxidation contribute to the extended longevity of GHR-KO mice.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Hypothalamus, Carbon dioxide, Metabolism, Energy, Hormone, Obesity, Growth hormone


Most species living in temperate zones adapt their physiology and behavior to seasonal changes in the environment by using the photoperiod as a primary cue. The mechanisms underlying photoperiodic regulation of stress-related functions are not well understood. In this study, we analyzed the effects of photoperiod on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in photoperiod-sensitive Fischer 344 rats. We first examined how photoperiod affects diurnal variations in plasma concentrations of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and corticosterone. ACTH levels did not exhibit diurnal variations under long- and short-day conditions. On the other hand, corticosterone levels exhibited a clear rhythm under short-day condition with a peak during dark phase. This peak was not observed under long-day condition in which a significant rhythm was not detected. To analyze the mechanisms responsible for the photoperiodic regulation of corticosterone rhythms, ACTH was intraperitoneally injected at the onset of the light or dark phase in dexamethasone-treated rats maintained under long- and short-day conditions. ACTH induced higher corticosterone levels in rats examined at dark onset under short-day condition than those maintained under long-day condition. Next, we asked whether melatonin signals are involved in photoperiodic regulation of corticosterone rhythms, and rats were intraperitoneally injected with melatonin at late afternoon under long-day condition for 3 weeks. However, melatonin injections did not affect the corticosterone rhythms. In addition, photoperiodic changes in the amplitude of corticosterone rhythms were also observed in melatonin-deficient C57BL/6J mice, in which expression profiles of several clock genes and steroidgenesis genes in adrenal gland were modified by the photoperiod. Our data suggest that photoperiod regulates corticosterone rhythms by altered adrenal sensitivity through melatonin-independent mechanisms that may involve the adrenal clock.

Concepts: Hypothalamus, Cortisol, Circadian rhythm, Adrenocorticotropic hormone, Adrenal cortex, ACTH stimulation test, Adrenal gland, Anterior pituitary


Type II deiodinase (D2) activates thyroid hormone by converting thyroxine (T4) to 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine (T3). This allows plasma T4 to signal a negative feedback loop that inhibits production of thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) in the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in the pituitary. To determine the relative contributions of these D2 pathways in the feedback loop, we developed 2 mouse strains with pituitary- and astrocyte-specific D2 knockdown (pit-D2 KO and astro-D2 KO mice, respectively). The pit-D2 KO mice had normal serum T3 and were systemically euthyroid, but exhibited an approximately 3-fold elevation in serum TSH levels and a 40% reduction in biological activity. This was the result of elevated serum T4 that increased D2-mediated T3 production in the MBH, thus decreasing Trh mRNA. That tanycytes, not astrocytes, are the cells within the MBH that mediate T4-to-T3 conversion was defined by studies using the astro-D2 KO mice. Despite near-complete loss of brain D2, tanycyte D2 was preserved in astro-D2 KO mice at levels that were sufficient to maintain both the T4-dependent negative feedback loop and thyroid economy. Taken together, these data demonstrated that the hypothalamic-thyroid axis is wired to maintain normal plasma T3 levels, which is achieved through coordination of T4-to-T3 conversion between thyrotrophs and tanycytes.

Concepts: Hypothalamus, Prolactin, Thyroid-stimulating hormone, Thyroid, Feedback, Negative feedback, Thyrotropin-releasing hormone, Triiodothyronine


Decision-making often involves using sensory cues to predict possible rewarding or punishing reinforcement outcomes before selecting a course of action. Recent work has revealed complexity in how the brain learns to predict rewards and punishments. Analysis of neural signaling during and after learning in the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex, two brain areas that process appetitive and aversive stimuli, reveals a dynamic relationship between appetitive and aversive circuits. Specifically, the relationship between signaling in appetitive and aversive circuits in these areas shifts as a function of learning. Furthermore, although appetitive and aversive circuits may often drive opposite behaviors - approaching or avoiding reinforcement depending upon its valence - these circuits can also drive similar behaviors, such as enhanced arousal or attention; these processes also may influence choice behavior. These data highlight the formidable challenges ahead in dissecting how appetitive and aversive neural circuits interact to produce a complex and nuanced range of behaviors.

Concepts: Psychology, Neuroanatomy, Hypothalamus, Brain, Human brain, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Limbic system


Colloid cysts are rare congenital, intracranial neoplasms, commonly located in the third ventricle. Colloid cysts are endodermal congenital malformations. The cysts commonly range in size from 1–2 cm in diameter, although large cysts >3 cm in size have been reported. The components of the cyst include an outer fibrous capsule over an inner epithelium. The epithelium is usually a single layer of mucin-producing or ciliated cells. Such cysts contain mucoid and gelatinous material, which is positive for both Periodic acid Schiff (PAS) and mucicarmen staining. Although colloid cysts usually represent histopathologically benign neoplasms, they can result in sudden, unexpected and potentially lethal complications. The mechanism(s) of death is still a controversial subject and several mechanisms have been postulated to explain the sudden onset of severe symptoms and of fatal rapid deterioration in patients with colloid cysts. In this case, macroscopic and histological findings addressed the diagnosis of colloid cyst of the third ventricle with diffuse myocardial injury (coagulative myocytolysys or contraction band necrosis, CBN) and led us to conclude that acute cardiac arrest due to hypothalamus stimulation in the context of colloid cyst of the third ventricle was the cause of death. As the hypothalamic structures which are involved in neuroendocrine and autonomic regulation playing a key role in cardiovascular control are located close to the walls of the third ventricle which is the most frequent anatomical site of colloid cyst, this may suggest that reflex cardiac effects due to the compression of the hypothalamic cardiovascular regulatory centers by the cyst explain the sudden death in patients harboring a colloid cyst when signs of hydrocephalus or brain herniation are lacking.Virtual slidesThe virtual slide(s) for this article can be found here:

Concepts: Hypothalamus, Blood, Myocardial infarction, Heart, Intracranial pressure, Benign tumor, Congenital disorder, Colloid cyst


The mechanism of cardiovascular responses to chemical stimulation of the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARCN) was studied in urethane-anesthetized adult male Wistar rats. At the baseline mean arterial pressure (BLMAP) close to normal, ARCN stimulation elicited decreases in MAP and sympathetic nerve activity (SNA). The decreases in MAP elicited by ARCN stimulation were attenuated by either gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), neuropeptide Y (NPY), or beta-endorphin receptor blockade in the ipsilateral hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN). Combined blockade of GABA-A, NPY1 and opioid receptors in the ipsilateral PVN converted the decreases in MAP and SNA to increases in these variables. Conversion of inhibitory effects on the MAP and SNA to excitatory effects following ARCN stimulation was also observed when the BLMAP was decreased to below normal levels by an infusion of sodium nitroprusside. The pressor and tachycardic responses to ARCN stimulation at below normal BLMAP were attenuated by blockade of melanocortin ¾ (MC3/4) receptors in the ipsilateral PVN. Unilateral blockade of GABA-A receptors in the ARCN increased the BLMAP and heart rate (HR) revealing tonic inhibition of the excitatory neurons in the ARCN. ARCN stimulation elicited tachycardia regardless of the level of BLMAP. ARCN neurons projecting to the PVN were immunoreactive for glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 (GAD67), NPY, and beta-endorphin. These results indicated that: 1) at normal BLMAP, decreases in MAP and SNA induced by ARCN stimulation were mediated via GABA-A, NPY1 and opioid receptors in the PVN, 2) lowering of BLMAP converted decreases in MAP following ARCN stimulation to increases in MAP, and 3) at below normal BLMAP, increases in MAP and HR induced by ARCN stimulation were mediated via MC3/4 receptors in the PVN. These results provide a base for future studies to explore the role of ARCN in cardiovascular diseases.

Concepts: Nervous system, Hypothalamus, Receptor, Neuroendocrinology, Leptin, Dopamine, Neuropeptide Y, Arcuate nucleus


There is now compelling evidence for a link between enteric microbiota and brain function. The ingestion of probiotics modulates the processing of information that is strongly linked to anxiety and depression, and influences the neuroendocrine stress response. We have recently demonstrated that prebiotics (soluble fibres that augment the growth of indigenous microbiota) have significant neurobiological effects in rats, but their action in humans has not been reported.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Hypothalamus, Digestive system, Probiotic, Emotion, Dietary fiber, Prebiotic


Participants (N = 34) undertook a CANTAB battery on two separate occasions after fasting and abstaining from fluid intake since the previous evening. On one occasion they were offered 500 ml water shortly before testing, and on the other occasion no water was consumed prior to testing. Reaction times, as measured by Simple Reaction Time (SRT), were faster on the occasion on which they consumed water. Furthermore, subjective thirst was found to moderate the effect of water consumption on speed of responding. Response latencies in the SRT task were greater under the “no water” condition than under the “water” condition, but only for those participants with relatively high subjective thirst after abstaining from fluid intake overnight. For those participants with relatively low subjective thirst, latencies were unaffected by water consumption, and were similarly fast as those recorded for thirsty participants who had consumed water. These results reveal the novel finding that subjective thirst moderates the positive effect of fluid consumption on speed of responding. The results also showed evidence that practice also affected task performance. These results imply that, for speed of responding at least, the positive effects of water supplementation may result from an attenuation of the central processing resources consumed by the subjective sensation of thirst that otherwise impair the execution of speeded cognitive processes.

Concepts: Hypothalamus, Effect, Cognitive psychology, Affect, Dehydration, Reaction time, Thirst, Fluid balance