Individual arcuate nucleus proopiomelanocortin neurons project to select target sites

Marissa J. Metz, Caitlin M. Daimon, Connie M. King, Andrew R. Rau, Shane T. Hentges

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARH) are a diverse group of neurons that project widely to different brain regions. It is unknown how this small population of neurons organizes its efferent projections. In this study, we hypothesized that individual ARH POMC neurons exclusively innervate select target regions. To investigate this hypothesis, we first verified that only a fraction of ARH POMC neurons innervate the lateral hypothalamus (LH), the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN), the periaqueductal gray (PAG), or the ventral tegmental area (VTA) using the retrograde tracer cholera toxin B (CTB). Next, two versions of CTB conjugated to distinct fluorophores were injected bilaterally into two of the regions such that PVN and VTA, PAG and VTA, or LH and PVN received tracers simultaneously. These pairs of target sites were chosen based on function and location. Few individual ARH POMC neurons projected to two brain regions at once, suggesting that there are ARH POMC neuron subpopulations organized by their efferent projections. We also investigated whether increasing the activity of POMC neurons could increase the number of ARH POMC neurons labeled with CTB, implying an increase in new synaptic connections to downstream regions. However, chemogenetic enhancement of POMC neuron activity did not increase retrograde tracing of CTB back to ARH POMC neurons from either the LH, PVN, or VTA. Overall, subpopulations of ARH POMC neurons with distinct efferent projections may serve as a way for the POMC population to organize its many functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R982-R989
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Efferent projections
  • Hypothalamus
  • POMC
  • Retrograde labeling


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