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Reduced expression of the KATP channel subunit, Kir6.2, is associated with decreased expression of neuropeptide Y and agouti-related protein in the hypothalami of Zucker diabetic fatty rats.

A Gyte, L E Pritchard, H B Jones, J C Brennand, A White

J. Neuroendocrinol., 2007 Dec , 19, 941-51

The link between obesity and diabetes is not fully understood but there is evidence to suggest that hypothalamic signalling pathways may be involved. The hypothalamic neuropeptides, pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), neuropeptide Y (NPY) and agouti-related protein (AGRP) are central to the regulation of food intake and have been implicated in glucose homeostasis. Therefore, the expression of these genes was quantified in hypothalami from diabetic Zucker fatty (ZDF) rats and nondiabetic Zucker fatty (ZF) rats at 6, 8, 10 and 14 weeks of age. Although both strains are obese, only ZDF rats develop pancreatic degeneration and diabetes over this time period. In both ZF and ZDF rats, POMC gene expression was decreased in obese versus lean rats at all ages. By contrast, although there was the expected increase in both NPY and AGRP expression in obese 14-week-old ZF rats, the expression of NPY and AGRP was decreased in 6-week-old obese ZDF rats with hyperinsulinaemia and in 14-week-old rats with the additional hyperglycaemia. Therefore, candidate genes involved in glucose, and insulin signalling pathways were examined in obese ZDF rats over this age range. We found that expression of the ATP-sensitive potassium (K(ATP)) channel component, Kir6.2, was decreased in obese ZDF rats and was lower compared to ZF rats in each age group tested. Furthermore, immunofluorescence analysis showed that Kir6.2 protein expression was reduced in the dorsomedial and ventromedial hypothalamic nuclei of 6-week-old prediabetic ZDF rats compared to ZF rats. The Kir6.2 immunofluorescence colocalised with NPY throughout the hypothalamus. The differences in Kir6.2 expression in ZF and ZDF rats mimic those of NPY and AGRP, which could infer that the changes occur in the same neurones. Overall, these data suggest that chronic changes in hypothalamic Kir6.2 expression may be associated with the development of hyperinsulinaemia and hyperglycaemia in ZDF rats.