Vagal CCK-A receptors (CCKARs) and leptin receptors (LRbs) interact synergistically to mediate short-term satiety. Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) peptide is expressed by vagal afferent neurons. We sought to demonstrate that this neurotransmitter regulates CCK and leptin actions on short-term satiety. We also examined the signal transduction pathways responsible for mediating the CART release from the nodose ganglia (NG). ELISA studies coupled with gene silencing of NG neurons by RNA interference elucidated intracellular signaling pathways responsible for CCK/leptin-stimulated CART release. Feeding studies followed by gene silencing of CART in NG established the role of CART in mediating short-term satiety. Immunohistochemistry was performed on rat NG neurons to confirm colocalization of CCKARs and LRbs; 63% of these neurons contained CART. Coadministration of CCK-8 and leptin caused a 2.2-fold increase in CART release that was inhibited by CCK-OPE, a low-affinity CCKAR antagonist. Transfection of cultured NG neurons with steroid receptor coactivator (SRC) or phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) small-interfering RNA (siRNA) or STAT3 lentiviral short hairpin RNA inhibited CCK/leptin-stimulated CART release. Silencing the expression of the EGR-1 gene inhibited the CCK/leptin-stimulated CART release but had no effect on CCK/leptin-stimulated neuronal firing. Electroporation of NG with CART siRNA inhibited CCK/leptin stimulated c-Fos expression in rat hypothalamus. Feeding studies following electroporation of the NG with CART or STAT3 siRNA abolished the effects of CCK/leptin on short-term satiety. We conclude that the synergistic interaction of low-affinity vagal CCKARs and LRbs mediates CART release from the NG, and CART is the principal neurotransmitter mediating short-term satiety. CART release from the NG involves interaction between CCK/SRC/PI3K cascades and leptin/JAK2/PI3K/STAT3 signaling pathways.
- CART release
- siRNA electroporation
- feeding studies
cholecystokinin (CCK) and leptin interact synergistically to induce short-term inhibition of food intake (9, 21) and long-term reduction of body weight (17, 18) in the rat. Low-dose leptin, which had no effect on feeding behavior for the first 3 h postinjection, decreased food intake dose dependently during the first hour when coinjected with a subthreshold dose of CCK (3). This synergistic effect was mediated by CCK-A receptors (CCKARs) in capsaicin-sensitive vagal fibers (3). This CCK-leptin interaction was reported to be associated with an increase in firing frequency of gastric vagal terminals (3). Collectively, these data indicate that CCK and leptin interact synergistically at the level of the nodose ganglia (NG) to regulate feeding behavior and body weight homeostasis. Signal transduction studies indicate the synergistic interaction between vagal CCKARs and leptin receptors (LRbs) is mediated by STAT3 phosphorylation, which in turn activates closure of K+ channels, leading to membrane depolarization (11). However, the neurotransmitter in the NG that mediates the synergistic action of CCK/leptin to inhibit short-term feeding remains unclear.
Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) peptide is expressed by vagal afferent (4) and hypothalamic (12) neurons. CART has been shown to suppress food intake in rats (12, 14, 24, 26). CCK stimulates CART expression in vagal afferent neurons (5–7, 20). Hence, it is conceivable that CART in the NG mediates the synergistic action of CCK/leptin in the control of short-term satiety.
In the present study, we examined the hypothesis that CART is the principal neurotransmitter used by the NG to mediate short-term satiety evoked by CCK and leptin. We further hypothesized that the release of CART is mediated by cross talk between the CCK/SRC and leptin/PI3K/STAT signaling cascades used by CCKRs and LRbs. We performed immunohistochemical staining to demonstrate colocalization of CCKAR/LRb and CART in a subset of NG neurons. Signal transduction studies were performed to investigate the signaling pathways responsible for CART release. To provide direct evidence that STAT3 activation and the release of CART from the NG are responsible for mediating short-term satiety evoked by CCK/leptin, feeding studies were performed after STAT3 and CART genes were silenced by local application of the small interfering RNA (siRNA) of each peptide into the NG by electroporation. To provide evidence that CART activates neurons in the hypothalamus (HT) in the mediation of satiety effect of CCK/leptin, c-Fos expression was evaluated in the HT after electroporation of rat NG with CART siRNA.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
CCK-8 and leptin were obtained from Sigma-Aldrich (St. Louis, MO). CCK-OPE was purchased from Research Plus (Barnegat, NJ). CART ELISA kit was obtained from Phoenix Pharmaceuticals (Burlingame, CA). Antibodies were obtained from Cell Signaling Technology (Danvers, MA), Phoenix Pharmaceuticals, R&D Systems (Minneapolis, MN), and Santa Cruz Biotechnology (Santa Cruz, CA). All acute isolation and tissue culture reagents were obtained from Invitrogen (Carlsbad, CA). Western immunoblotting reagents were purchased from GE HealthCare Biosciences (Piscataway, NJ) and Thermo Scientific (Rockford, IL). Lentiviral STAT3 short hairpin RNA (shRNA) was produced in the Retroviral Core Laboratory at the University of Michigan. SRC siRNA, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) siRNA, CART siRNA, STAT3 siRNA, and early growth response factor 1 (EGR-1) siRNA were purchased from Santa Cruz Biotechnology.
Immunocytochemistry in rat NG.
Triple immunostaining studies were performed on rat NG neurons to identify the number of cells positive for CCKAR, LRb, and CART and to determine their colocalization. Rats were euthanized with urethane. After a transcardiac perfusion with ice-cold PBS, the right and left NG were fixed for 2 h at room temperature in 4% paraformaldehyde, 0.2% picric acid, and 0.35% glutaraldehyde in 0.1 M phosphate buffer (pH 7.4) and then incubated overnight at 4°C in 25% sucrose. The NG were cut into longitudinal sections (5 μm thick) with a precision cryostat (Leica Microsystems, Bannockburn, IL). The sections were collected in serially ordered sets, thaw mounted on gelatin-chromium coated slides, and stored at −70°C. The sections were incubated with 5% normal donkey serum for 1 h to block nonspecific staining. The primary antibodies to CCKAR (SC-33220, 1:250, Santa Cruz Biotechnology), to LRb (SC-8325, 1:250, Santa Cruz Biotechnology), and to CART (BAF 163, R&D Systems) were diluted in PBS containing 2% normal donkey serum, 0.3% Triton X-100, and 0.1% sodium azide and incubated with the sections overnight at 4°C. The coverslips were washed in PBS and then exposed for 20 min to species-specific Alexa Fluor 488 (Molecular Probes, Carlsbad, CA) or cyanine 3-conjugated secondary antibodies (Jackson ImmunoResearch Laboratories, West Grove, PA) diluted 1:500 in PBS containing 0.3% Triton X-100. The sections were covered with a coverslip, sealed, and examined with an Olympus BX2 (Center Valley, PA) epifluorescence microscope. The images were analyzed by using filter combinations that enabled separate visualization of multiple fluorophores. Images were stored and analyzed with Adobe Photoshop CS2 (Adobe Systems, Mountain View, CA) and a Zeiss LSM Image Browser.
Isolation and culturing of rat NG neurons.
Experiments were performed on adult male Sprague-Dawley rats (150–200 g) obtained from Charles River Laboratories (Wilmington, MA) in accordance with National Institutes of Health guidelines and as approved by the University Committee on Use and Care of Animals at the University of Michigan. We used three to five rats for each experiment. The rats were euthanized with increasing concentrations of CO2 and the NG were dissected and immersed in GIBCO HBSS (Invitrogen) with Pen-Strep and 0.1% bovine serum albumin (BSA). The NG were minced into tiny pieces and were digested in 4 ml HBSS containing 0.1% BSA, 1 mg/ml collagenase type 1A (Invitrogen), and 1 mg/ml dispase II (Roche, Nutley, NJ) for 40 min at 37°C. The ganglia fragments were gently triturated 10 times to disperse the cells, followed by centrifugation at 1,000 rpm for 5 min. The cell pellet was resuspended in 5 ml low-glucose DMEM/F-12 media (Invitrogen) in equal volumes supplemented with 10% fetal bovine serum (FBS), antibiotics (100 U/ml penicillin, 100 μg/ml streptomycin), and l-glutamine, and then centrifuged at 1,000 rpm for 5 min. This step was repeated two times. The final cell pellet was resuspended in 1 ml HDMEM/F-12 media (HEPES-buffered low-glucose DMEM/F-12) containing 10% FBS supplemented with antibiotics and l-glutamine. The suspension (100 μl) was transferred to the center well of a poly-d-lysine coated glass bottom culture dish (Mat Tek, Ashland, MA), and the neurons were allowed to attach for 2 h. These isolated neurons were cultured in an incubator at 37°C for 72 h in 2 ml DMEM/F-12 media with 10% FBS, prior to stimulation for CART release in cell culture medium and analysis of Western blot cell lysates.
Secretion of CART.
NG neurons were cultured for 72 h in DMEM/F-12 media with 10% FBS and transferred to serum-free medium overnight. Cells were treated with 0.1–100 nM CCK-8 or 0.1–100 nM leptin for 2 h. One dose of CCK8 or leptin was used for each batch of cell culture. The cells were also stimulated with 0.1 nM CCK-8 plus 0.1 nM leptin in combination, with and without 100 nM CCK-OPE. CCK-OPE was added 30 min before CCK-8 plus leptin stimulation. Following a 2-h incubation, medium was collected to measure CART secretion by use of a CART ELISA kit (Phoenix Pharmaceuticals).
Lipofectamine transfection with silencing RNA in primary cultured NG.
siRNAs for PI3K p85 alpha (SC-156021), SRC-1 (SC-36556), Erk1 (SC-156030), Erk2 (SC-156031), EGR-1 (SC-270177), and a siRNA-A unrelated to these genes used as the control (SC-37007) were diluted in Opti-MEM (Invitrogen). NG neurons at 50–60% confluency were transfected with 15 nM of control siRNA-A, PI3K siRNA, SRC-1 siRNA, or Erk1/2 siRNA in Opti-MEM and Lipofectamine RNAiMAX (Invitrogen) for 4–6 h as previously described (11). The neurons were incubated for 72 h with siRNA. The media were removed and replaced with low-glucose, serum-free DMEM/F-12 media in equal volumes, supplemented with l-glutamine. The NG neurons were stimulated for 120 min with or without CCK-8 (1 nM) plus leptin (1 nM). The supernatant was analyzed for CART release and the neurons were washed twice with 1 ml ice-cold PBS. After the second wash, lysis buffer (30 μl) with protease inhibitor was added to the culture dish, and the neurons were incubated for 15 min at 4°C. The cell lysates were centrifuged at 10,000 g for 5 min; 10 μl of the supernatant was analyzed for protein estimation with a protein assay kit (Bio-Rad Laboratories, Hercules, CA) and the remainder was analyzed by Western immunoblotting.
Lentivirus-based gene silencing in primary culture NG by RNA interference.
siRNA was designed and constructed in lentiviral shRNA vectors to silence the expression of rat STAT3 (NM_012747), as previously described (11). In addition, an shRNA construct unrelated to these genes was constructed as a control. The primary culture NG neurons were infected with either pLL3.7 (control virus) or pLL3.7 STAT3 shRNA plasmids. The neurons in 2 ml of DMEM/F-12 media with 10% FBS at 37°C were infected with 2–5 × 106 transducing units (TU)/ml control lentiviral particles or STAT3 shRNA viral particles. After 72–96 h in culture, the infected cells were stimulated with CCK-8 and leptin for 120 min and the supernatant was analyzed for CART release. The cells were washed twice with 1 ml ice-cold PBS. After a final wash, 30 μl lysis buffer (Sigma-Aldrich) with protease inhibitor (Roche) was added to the culture dish, and the cells were incubated for 15 min at 4°C. The cell lysates were centrifuged at 10,000 g for 5 min. Supernatant (10 μl) was analyzed for protein estimation by use of a protein assay kit (Bio-Rad Laboratories) and the rest of the sample was used for STAT3 Western immunoblotting.
Western immunoblotting was performed as described (11). Protein samples were separated on 10% Ready Gel Tris·HCl gel (Bio-Rad Laboratories), for 60 min at 80 V. The proteins were then transferred to Hybond ECL nitrocellulose membranes (GE HealthCare Biosciences) for 60 min at 80 V. The membranes were washed once in TBST (Tris-buffered saline with 0.1% Tween-20) and then blocked with StartBlock buffer T20 (Thermo Scientific) for 1 h at room temperature. The membranes were probed with phospho-STAT3 antibody (Cell Signaling Technology, no. 9131), PI3K p85α antibody (SC-423, Santa Cruz Biotechnology), SRC antibody (Cell Signaling Technology, no. 2108), MAPK antibody (Cell Signaling Technology no. 9102), or EGR-1 antibody (SC-189, Santa Cruz Biotechnology) at 1:1,000 dilution in the blocking buffer and incubated overnight at 4°C. The membranes were washed three times in TBST (5 min each time) and were incubated with corresponding secondary antibodies in the blocking buffer for 1 h at room temperature. The membranes were exposed to enhanced chemiluminescence (ECL) buffer for 1 min and then to high-performance chemiluminescence film (GE HealthCare Biosciences) in the dark. The resulting bands were scanned with a Visioneer 9520 Photoscanner and density of the bands was analyzed with Image J software (National Institutes of Health).
Patch-clamp electrophysiological recordings.
EGR-1 has been shown to play a critical role in CART synthesis (5). We investigated the involvement of EGR-1 in mediating CCK/leptin-evoked neuronal firing. Duplex siRNA targeting EGR-1 and random siRNA (controls) were labeled with Kit-cyanine 3 (Cy3) as described (32) to aid identification of transfected cell. siRNAs for EGR1 and control (SC-37007) were diluted in Opti-MEM. The final concentration of siRNA added to the cells was 15 nM. NG neurons at 50–60% confluence were transfected with control or EGR1 siRNA in Opti-MEM and Lipofectamine 2000 for 4–6 h. The media were supplemented to a final volume of 2 ml of DMEM and F12 medium in equal volumes, supplemented with 10% FBS and l-glutamate without antibiotics. Whole cell patch-clamp recordings were performed on cultured NG neurons within 72–96 h after siRNA transfection. A single culture dish was transferred to the stage of an inverted microscope (Nikon, Eclipse Ti). Whole cell patch-clamp recordings were performed on Cy3-positive NG neurons at 30°C ± 0.5°C. The recordings were obtained using patch pipettes with an access resistance of 3–5 MΩ and an internal solution consisting of (in mM) 140 potassium gluconate, 10 HEPES, 10 EGTA, 1 MgCl2, 1 CaCl2, 1 ATP, and mM GTP, adjusted to pH 7.3 with KOH. The neurons were bathed in an external solution consisting of (in mM) 140 NaCl, 5 KCl, 2 CaCl2, 1 MgCl2, 10 HEPES, 5 glucose, at 300 mosM and pH 7.3. Whole cell currents were measured by use of a patch-clamp amplifier (Axopatch 200B; Molecular Devices, Sunnyvale, CA), digitized (DIGIDATA 1340; Molecular Devices), and recorded with a PC using pCLAMP9 software (Molecular Devices).
Food intake studies and effects of electroporation with STAT3 siRNA or CART siRNA.
Before starting the food intake studies, the rats were randomly divided into four groups of five rats each and the NG either received no treatment or was electroporated with random siRNA (SC-37007), STAT3 siRNA (SC-270027), or CART siRNA (SC-270029). The in vivo electroporation procedure used in this experiment was previously described (32). Electroporation uses short, high-voltage pulses to overcome the barrier of the cell membrane (22). Studies have shown that siRNA cannot enter cells without electroporation and that electroporation by itself does not affect the target expression (22). We have successfully used this technique to transfer siRNA into the NG (32) and anterior cingulate gyrus (10). By silencing CART expression in the NG, without affecting the expression of this gene in other systems, we could specifically examine the role of CART in the NG in the mediation of satiety evoked by CCK/leptin. Electroporation of the NG was performed as described (32). The NG were exposed by a ventral approach. A beveled micropipette was filled with CART siRNA (10 μM/14 μl) or STAT3 siRNA (10 μM/14 μl) or control siRNA (10 μM/14 μl) with pEGFP-N1 vector (1 μg/μl) and 20 μl of the particular siRNA along with pEGFP-N1 were injected (bilateral) into the left and right NG. After 15 min, an isolated pulse stimulator (model 2100, A-M System, Carlsborg, WA) delivered square wave electric pulses at 50 V/cm at 1 Hz frequency for 20 ms. Transfection efficiency was determined by green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression and RT-PCR mRNA studies. GFP expression, which is a novel genetic reporter system, was measured by fluorescence microscopy (excitation 488 nM). Our previous research has shown that siRNA transfection into NG neurons has maximal effect 3 to 6 days postinfection, with silencing lasting up to 2 wk (32). The optimal conditions for electroporation and GFP expression have been established (32). Feeding studies were initiated 5 days after electroporation. The rats were starved overnight with free access to water. On the day of the experiment, the control rats were given a saline injection and the study rats were given a coinjection of CCK-8 (3.5 μg/kg ip) plus leptin (120 μg/kg ip). The feeding study was initiated at 9 AM when the rats were given weighed food, and the cumulative food intake was recorded at 1-h intervals over 3 h, as previously described (3).
c-Fos immunocytochemistry in rat brain.
c-Fos immunostaining was performed on rat brain sections. At 5 days after electroporation of rat NG with random siRNA (SC-37007) or CART siRNA (SC-270029), the rats were given a coinjection of CCK-8 (3.5 μg/kg ip) plus leptin (120 μg/kg ip). The rats were euthanized with urethane after 1 h. A transcardiac perfusion with ice-cold PBS was performed and the brain was removed and fixed for 2 h at room temperature in 4% paraformaldehyde, 0.2% picric acid, and 0.35% glutaraldehyde in 0.1 M phosphate buffer (pH 7.4) and then incubated overnight at 4°C in 25% sucrose. The brain tissue was cut into longitudinal sections (5 μm thick) with a precision cryostat (Leica Microsystems, Bannockburn, IL). The sections were collected in serially ordered sets, thaw mounted on gelatin-chromium coated slides, and stored at −70°C. The sections were incubated with 5% normal donkey serum for 1 h to block nonspecific staining. The anti-c-Fos antibody (Ab-5) (PC38, Calbiochem) was diluted 1:1,000 in PBS containing 2% normal donkey serum, 0.3% Triton X-100, and 0.1% sodium azide and incubated with the sections overnight at 4°C. The coverslips were washed in PBS and then exposed for 20 min to Cy3-conjugated secondary antibodies (Jackson ImmunoResearch Laboratories) diluted 1:500 in PBS containing 0.3% Triton X-100. The sections were covered with a coverslip, sealed, and examined with an Olympus BX2 (Center Valley, PA) epifluorescence microscope. Images were stored and analyzed with Adobe Photoshop CS2 (Adobe Systems) and a Zeiss LSM Image Browser.
RT-PCR of CART, STAT3, and EGR-1 mRNA.
Total RNA was extracted from cultured NG transfected with random siRNA, STAT3 siRNA, CART siRNA, or EGR-1 siRNA, using TRIzol (Invitrogen), according to the manufacturer's instructions. Reverse transcription was performed by using 5 μg of total RNA, and the resultant cDNAs were used for the PCR reaction. The primer sets to generate mRNA for STAT3 were sense 5′-GGACCCTATTGTGCAGCACCG-3′ and antisense 5′-ATCAGGTGCAGCTCCTCAGTG-3′, GenBank accession number NM_012747. The primer sets to generate mRNA for CART were sense 5′-CGCCCTACTGCTGCTGCTACC-3′ and antisense 5′-CAAGAAGTTCCTCGGGGACAG-3′, GenBank accession number MN_017110. The primer sets for EGR-1 were sense 5′-TCTCCGCTGCAGATCTCTGAC-3′ and antisense 5′-TCAGGTCTCCCTGTTGTTGTG-3′, GenBank accession number M18416. PCR was performed with Taq DNA polymerase (Promega, Madison, WI) through 30 cycles of denaturation (30 s, 94°C), annealing (30 s, 50°C), and extension (30 s, 72°C), followed by a final extension (10 min, 72°C). GAPDH was the internal control. PCR products were separated on a 1.2% agarose gel with a Tris-borate-EDTA buffer. The resulting bands were stained with ethidium bromide and visualized by ultraviolet light illumination. The bands were then scanned with an Epson Stylus Photo R2400 and their intensities were analyzed with Image J software (National Institutes of Health). The CART, STAT3, or EGR-1 bands were quantified and expressed as a percentage of the corresponding GAPDH band intensity.
Statistical analysis of data.
CART release into the medium or as fold increase over basal release was expressed as nanograms per milliliter. The results were expressed as means ± SE. Statistical analysis was performed by the nonparametric Kruskal-Wallis test or the Dunnett's test, depending on the particular study design. Statistical significance was set at P < 0.05.
CCKAR, LRb, and CART receptors coexpress in rat NG.
Immunohistochemical staining showed that 36.7 ± 4.4% of NG neurons stained positive for LRb (Fig. 1A), 55.9 ± 5.1% stained positive for CCKAR (Fig. 1B), and 24.5 ± 6.3% stained positive for CART (Fig. 1C). Among all NG neurons, 18.7 ± 2.8% contained both CCKARs and LRbs (Fig. 1D) and 11.5 ± 5.1% (Fig. 1E) expressed CCKAR, LRb, and CART immunoreactivities. Our previous studies (11) showed that CCKARs that colocalize with LRbs in the NG are low-affinity receptors, and our present studies showed about 63% of these neurons were positive for CART immunoreactivity.
CCK-8 and leptin stimulate CART release via low-affinity CCKARs.
Acutely isolated NG neurons were stimulated for 2 h with increasing doses of CCK-8 or leptin and the supernatants were analyzed for CART release. CCK-8 caused a dose-dependent increase in CART release, peaking at 100 nM, with a 2.15 ± 0.45-fold increase (Fig. 2A). Similarly, leptin caused a dose-dependent increase in CART release with a maximal 3.64 ± 0.51-fold increase at 100 nM (Fig. 2B). Subthreshold doses of CCK-8 (0.1 nM) and leptin (0.1 nM) individually did not significantly increase CART release above basal, but combined they resulted in a 2.27 ± 0.21-fold increase (Fig. 3). We next determined the effect of CCK-OPE on CCK-8 plus leptin-stimulated CART release. Acutely isolated rat NG neurons were preincubated with 100 nM CCK-OPE for 30 min and were then stimulated for 120 min with a combination of 0.1 nM leptin plus 0.1 nM CCK-8. The CCK analog CCK-OPE is a high-affinity CCKAR agonist and low-affinity CCKAR antagonist. A comparable dose of CCK-OPE, which is 100× less potent than CCK-8, significantly inhibited the 2.28 ± 0.3-fold increase in CART release by >70% (P < 0.05) (Fig. 3). The data demonstrate the involvement of low-affinity CCKARs in CART release.
CCK-8 and leptin mediate CART release via SRC, PI3K, and STAT3 pathways.
To investigate the signal transduction pathways involved in CCK/leptin-mediated CART release in the NG, we examined the effect of silencing SRC, PI3K, and Erk1/2 genes on the CCK/leptin-stimulated CART release. Primary cultured NG neurons were transiently transfected for 3 days with random siRNA, PI3K siRNA, SRC siRNA, or Erk1/2 siRNA, serum starved overnight, and then stimulated for 120 min with and without a combination CCK-8 and leptin (each 1 nM). Transfection of NG neurons with PI3K siRNA or SRC siRNA inhibited the CCK/leptin-stimulated CART release by more than 70%, whereas transfection with random siRNA did not affect the CCK/leptin-stimulated 231 ± 15% and 228 ± 20% increases in CART release (Fig. 4, A and C). On the other hand, transient transfection of cultured NG neurons with Erk1 and Erk2 siRNA had no effect on CCK/leptin-stimulated CART release (Fig. 5C). Representative immunoblots show that transfection of NG neurons with PI3K siRNA (Fig. 4B), SRC siRNA (Fig. 4D), and Erk1/2 siRNA (Fig. 5D) caused >70% decrease in total PI3K, SRC, or Erk1/2 expression. To determine the role of STAT3 in CART release, the STAT3 gene was silenced by infecting cultured NG neurons with lentiviral STAT3 shRNA or control shRNA for 3 days. The cells were serum starved overnight and then stimulated the following day for 2 h for CART release with and without 1 nM CCK-8 plus 1 nM leptin. NG infected with lentiviral STAT3-shRNA were identified by GFP labeling, which was used to determine the transfection efficiency of 85 ± 3%. NG neurons infected with STAT3 shRNA inhibited CCK-8/leptin in stimulated CART release by >90% (Fig. 5A), compared with NG infected with scrambled lentiviral shRNA, which resulted in a 241 ± 8% increase in CART release compared with unstimulated control cells. Immunoblots verified a significant decrease (>80%) in STAT3 expression in NG transfected with STAT3 shRNA (Fig. 5B). Our data suggest that the synergistic CCK/leptin-stimulated CART release in rat NG neurons involves interactions between the SRC/PI3K/STAT3 pathways.
Silencing EGR-1 gene expression inhibits CCK/leptin-stimulated CART release.
De Lartigue et al. (5) reported that EGR-1 regulates the synthesis of CART in NG. Hence, we anticipated that silencing EGR-1 expression would affect CART release. CCK-8 (1 nM) plus leptin (1 nM) caused a 254.7 ± 6.4% increase in CART release. Transfection with EGR-1 siRNA transfection caused a >80% inhibition of CART release evoked by CCK/leptin (P < 0.05) (Fig. 6A). RT-PCR of cultured NG neurons, 4 days after transfection with EGR-1 siRNA, confirmed a 70% decrease in CART mRNA expression in control and stimulated NG neurons (Fig. 6B). RT-PCR for EGR-1 mRNA confirmed that transfection of cultured NG with EGR-1 siRNA for 4–5 days inhibited both control and stimulated EGR-1 mRNA expression by >60% (Fig. 6C). Western immunoblot analysis showed similar a degree of inhibition of EGR-1 protein expression (Fig. 6D).
Silencing the EGR-1 gene does not affect neuronal firing evoked by CCK/leptin.
Continuous membrane potential recordings in response to extracellular application of 1 nM leptin or 1 nM CCK-8 alone or in combination were obtained in a patch-clamp study in EGR1 siRNA-transfected (Cy3-positive) NG neurons (Fig. 7A). The neuronal input resistance was tested by injecting a current pulse (100 pA, 500 ms) into the neuron. Leptin (1 nM) or CCK-8 (1 nM) alone did not significantly change the resting membrane potential or neuronal input resistance (n = 20). Simultaneous application of CCK-8 and leptin depolarized the membrane potential, exceeding the threshold for action potential generation (Fig. 7B). Of 20 neurons tested, 4 (20%) responded to a CCK-8/leptin combination. This frequency of response was similar to that observed in neurons transfected with random siRNA (5/22), suggesting that silencing EGR-1 gene has no effect on neuronal firing evoked by CCK/leptin.
Silencing of the CART gene abolishes CCK/leptin-stimulated c-Fos activation in the hypothalamus.
To investigate whether CART in the NG mediates the activation of the hypothalamus evoked by peripheral administration of CCK8/leptin, we silenced the CART gene by electroporating the left and right NG with control siRNA or CART siRNA (10 μM/14 μl). The rats were allowed to recover for 5 days and were injected with a combination of leptin (120 μg/kg ip) plus CCK-8 (3.5 μg/kg ip). In control rats, c-Fos immunohistochemical staining showed that leptin plus CCK stimulated c-Fos staining in the lateral hypothalamus (LH) (Fig. 8A), dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH) (Fig. 8C), paraventricular nucleus (PVN) (Fig. 8E), and arcuate nucleus (ARC) (Fig. 8G). In contrast, c-Fos immunostainings in the LH (Fig. 8B), the DMH (Fig. 8D), the PVN (Fig. 8F), and the ARC (Fig. 8H) were markedly reduced after electroporating of both the right and left NG with CART siRNA.
Silencing the STAT3 and CART genes abolishes the effect of CCK and leptin on short-term satiety.
To investigate the role of STAT3 phosphorylation and CART in the CCK/leptin synergistic effect on satiety, we silenced the STAT3 gene and the CART gene by electroporating the left and right NG with STAT3 siRNA (10 μM/14 μl) or CART siRNA (10 μM/14 μl). The rats were allowed to recover for 5 days and a feeding study was initiated at 9 AM after an overnight fast. In the control rats, administration of CCK-8 (3.5 μg/kg ip) alone reduced food intake by 36 ± 4, 28 ± 5, and 34 ± 3% in the first 3 h compared with the saline control group. Coadministration of leptin (120 μg/kg ip) with CCK-8 (3.5 μg/kg ip) markedly enhanced the satiety action of CCK, resulting in 67 ± 10, 56 ± 5, and 59 ± 6% inhibition in postinjection hours 1, 2, and 3 (P < 0.05). In contrast, administration of leptin (120 μg/kg ip) did not reduce food intake during the first 3 h compared with the saline control group. Electroporation of the NG with control siRNA did not affect the synergistic satiety action of CCK-8/leptin (Fig. 9A). The short-term satiety actions of CCK/leptin were abolished by electroporation of the NG with CART siRNA (Fig. 9A) or STAT3 siRNA (Fig. 9B). The success in knocking down STAT3 and CART gene expression was validated by RT-PCR analysis. Representative RT-PCR analysis showed that CART siRNA electroporation inhibited CART expression by >80% (Fig. 9C) and STAT3 siRNA electroporation inhibited STAT3 expression by >75% (Fig. 9D), 5 days after electroporation. These feeding studies showed that both CART and STAT3 play a pivotal role in the CCK/leptin synergistic effect on short-term satiety.
In this study, we showed that the synergistic interaction between vagal low-affinity CCKARs and LRbs mediates CART release in the NG, and that CART appears to be the principal neurotransmitter acting via the brain stem and hypothalamus to mediate short-term satiety. We also showed that CART release from the NG involves the interaction between CCK/SRC cascades and leptin/JAK2/PI3K/STAT3 signaling pathways.
Vagal CCKRs exist in both low- and high-affinity states (15). High-affinity vagal CCKARs mediate postprandial pancreatic enzyme secretion (15), whereas low-affinity CCKARs are involved in regulating short-term satiety (28). Electrophysiological recording and immunohistochemical studies have shown that predominantly low-affinity CCKARs are coexpressed with LRbs in the NG (15). In this study, we showed that 18.7% of NG neurons contained CCKARs and LRbs, and of these, ∼63% exhibited CART immunoreactivities. This group of neurons likely transmits the satiety signal evoked by CCK/leptin to the brain stem and hypothalamus.
CART was discovered by differential mRNA display as a transcript exhibiting increased expression in rats treated with amphetamine or cocaine (8). Widely expressed in the central and peripheral nervous systems (13), CART is abundant in rat NG (4, 8). Most CART-containing neurons also express CCKARs (4), and, as we show in this study, many also express leptin receptors. De Lartigue et al. (5) reported that CCK regulated CART expression in rat vagal afferent neurons. Under fasting conditions, CART was virtually undetectable, but CCK administration rapidly induced CART transcription by a mechanism involving activation of protein kinase C and cAMP response element-binding protein (5). Subsequent studies by the same group demonstrated that CCK induced nuclear localization of EGR-1 independently of expression, whereas leptin stimulated expression, but not nuclear localization (6, 7). Thus, by separately regulating EGR-1 synthesis and translocation, leptin and CCK interact cooperatively to control CART expression.
Currently, the mechanism responsible for CART release from NG is not clear. The low-affinity CCKAR is a G protein-coupled receptor that signals via multiple signal transduction pathways including the extracellular calcium-dependent SRC kinase, RhoA, PI3K, and MAPK pathways (19, 25). In addition to the JAK2/STAT3 pathway, leptin regulates other key signaling pathways, such as the Erk1/2 signaling pathway via the MAPK cascade, and the PI3K pathway, which is mediated by the insulin receptor substrate (2). As both PI3K and STAT3 possess SRC homology domains, it is conceivable that CCK/leptin enhance STAT3 phosphorylation, which may be the pivotal event in mediating the CCK-leptin interaction, leading to CART release. In a related study, we showed that CCK-leptin interaction in the rat NG enhanced STAT3 phosphorylation, which in turn activated K+ channel closure, leading to membrane depolarization and neuronal firing (11). This process may be involved in mediating CART release, along with the release of other NG neurotransmitters such as glutamate, substance P, and CGRP (29). This study showed that transient transfection of cultured NG neurons with SRC siRNA or PI3K siRNA inhibited the CCK/leptin synergistic stimulation of CART release (Fig. 4, A and C). In contrast, NG neurons transfected with scrambled siRNA had no effect on CART release stimulated by CCK-8/leptin, suggesting that the inhibition of CART release by silencing SRC or PI3K was specific and not the result of cell injury during transfection.
We next examined the effect of silencing the STAT3 gene in the NG on CART release. Cultured rat NG neurons were infected with lentiviral STAT3 shRNA for 5 days to abolish STAT3 expression. Infected neurons were identified by GFP labeling. This allowed us to perform electrophysiological studies to confirm that silencing the STAT3 gene prevented CCK/leptin-stimulated neuronal firing (11). We showed that silencing the STAT3 gene abolished CART release stimulated by CCK/leptin. We also confirmed that silencing EGR-1 expression in the NG prevents CART release, as previously reported by de Lartigue et al. (6, 7). However, this did not prevent neuronal firing evoked by CCK/leptin, suggesting that EGR-1 is critical for CART synthesis in the NG but not its release. On the other hand, CART release from the NG involves the interaction between CCK/SRC cascades and leptin/JAK2/PI3K/STAT3 signaling pathways.
There is convincing experimental data that CART acts at hindbrain and hypothalamic sites to inhibit feeding (1, 14, 23, 24, 30, 31). Our studies and others report CART expression in NG neurons that express CCKARs (4) and LRbs, raising the possibility that CART released from the vagal afferent fibers upon CCK/leptin stimulation in the postprandial period could function as a satiety signal at the level of the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) (4). De Lartigue et al. (6, 7) showed that CART reproduced the effect of CCK in stimulating the expression of Y2R (neuropeptide Y2) and CART itself in the NG in vivo and in vitro, but had no effect on the expression of melanin-concentrating hormone or cannabinoid-1 receptor, which were depressed by CCK. Therefore, CART mimics the excitatory but not the inhibitory effects of CCK. These investigators also showed that CART augmented the satiety action of CCK on food intake. These studies provide the first evidence that upon its release CART sustains and augments the excitatory effects of CCK on vagal afferent neurons, leading to inhibition of food intake. However, they do not prove CART is the neurotransmitter mediating the satiety action of CCK.
To provide direct evidence that the satiety action of CCK is mediated by CART in the NG, we silenced CART gene expression by local electroporation of CART siRNA and plasmid pEGP-N1 carrying the GFP gene. We validated success in knocking down CART gene expression by Western blot and RT-PCR analysis. In rats whose NG were treated with CART siRNA to silence the CART expression, the satiety action of CCK/leptin during the first 3 h was abolished (Fig. 9A). Silencing the expression of CART in the NG also eliminated CCK/leptin stimulated c-Fos expression in the hypothalamus (Fig. 8). These observations should be contrasted with that of Zheng et al. (31), who showed that CART injections into the fourth ventricle strongly suppressed sucrose drinking and stimulated c-Fos expression in the NTS. However, CART injections directly into various NTS subnuclei were less effective in suppressing food intake. These investigators proposed that the critical site for CART suppression of food intake is not the termination zone of CART-containing vagal afferents in the commissural NTS, and that CART release from vagal afferent terminals plays a minor role in satiation. These conclusions, however, are based on indirect evidence and are premature, because CART injection into the NTS may activate or inhibit various satiety and orexigenic signals that may neutralize each other. By silencing CART expression in the NG, we provided direct evidence that CART is the neurotransmitter responsible for the synergistic action of CCK and leptin on short-term satiety.
In conclusion, we have provided direct evidence that CART in the NG is the principal neurotransmitter mediating short-term satiety evoked by CCK/leptin. Both CCK and leptin are intimately involved in regulating CART synthesis and release in the NG. Previous studies have shown EGR-1 plays a critical role in CART synthesis in the NG (6, 7). In this study we demonstrated that CART release from the NG involves the interaction between CCK/SRC cascades and leptin/JAK2/PI3 signaling pathways to stimulate STAT3 phosphorylation, which in turn activates K+ channel closure, leading to membrane depolarization and neuronal firing (11). Therefore, the synthesis and the release of CART from the NG involve distinct signaling pathways. Abnormalities in these signaling pathways may result in eating disorders.
This study was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Grants R01 DK 48419 and P30 DK 39433.
No conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise, are declared by the author(s).
Author contributions: A.H., Y.L., S.-Y.Z., X.W., and G.G. performed experiments; A.H., G.G., I.S., and C.O. analyzed data; A.H., X.W., and G.G. prepared figures; A.H. and C.O. drafted manuscript; A.H. and C.O. edited and revised manuscript; C.O. conception and design of research; C.O. interpreted results of experiments; C.O. approved final version of manuscript.
The authors thank the Retroviral Core Laboratory at the University of Michigan for the providing the lentiviral shRNA, which was produced with the assistance of Thomas Lanigan.
- Copyright © 2012 the American Physiological Society