Transcriptional study of appetite regulating genes in the brain of zebrafish (Danio rerio) with impaired leptin signalling.

Sci Rep 2019 12 27;9(1):20166. Epub 2019 Dec 27.

Department of Organismal Biology, Comparative Physiology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18A, SE-752 36, Uppsala, Sweden.

The hormone leptin is a key regulator of body weight, food intake and metabolism. In mammals, leptin acts as an anorexigen and inhibits food intake centrally by affecting the appetite centres in the hypothalamus. In teleost fish, the regulatory connections between leptin and other appetite-regulating genes are largely unknown. In the present study, we used a zebrafish mutant with a loss of function leptin receptor to investigate brain expression patterns of 12 orexigenic and 24 anorexigenic genes under different feeding conditions (normal feeding, 7-day fasting, 2 and 6-hours refeeding). Expression patterns were compared to wild-type zebrafish, in order to identify leptin-dependent differentially expressed genes under different feeding conditions. We provide evidence that the transcription of certain orexigenic and anorexigenic genes is influenced by leptin signalling in the zebrafish brain. We found that the expression of orexigenic genes was not affected by impaired leptin signalling under normal feeding conditions; however, several orexigenic genes showed increased transcription during fasting and refeeding, including agrp, apln, galr1a and cnr1. This suggests an inhibitory effect of leptin signal on the transcription of these orexigenic genes during short-term fasting and refeeding in functional zebrafish. Most pronounced effects were observed in the group of anorexigenic genes, where the impairment of leptin signalling resulted in reduced gene expression in several genes, including cart family, crhb, gnrh2, mc4r, pomc and spx, in the control group. This suggests a stimulatory effect of leptin signal on the transcription of these anorexigenic genes under normal feeding condition. In addition, we found multiple gain and loss in expression correlations between the appetite-regulating genes, in zebrafish with impaired leptin signal, suggesting the presence of gene regulatory networks downstream of leptin signal in zebrafish brain. The results provide the first evidence for the effects of leptin signal on the transcription of various appetite-regulating genes in zebrafish brain, under different feeding conditions. Altogether, these transcriptional changes suggest an anorexigenic role for leptin signal, which is likely to be mediated through distinct set of appetite-regulating genes under different feeding conditions.

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