Regulation of Hypothalamic Neuronal Sensing and Food Intake by Ketone Bodies and Fatty Acids

  1. Barry E. Levin1,2
  1. 1Department of Neurology and Neurosciences, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ
  2. 2Neurology Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, East Orange, NJ
  3. 3School of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri–Kansas City, Kansas City, MO
  1. Corresponding author: Christelle Le Foll, christelle.lefoll{at}


Metabolic sensing neurons in the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) alter their activity when ambient levels of metabolic substrates, such as glucose and fatty acids (FA), change. To assess the relationship between a high-fat diet (HFD; 60%) intake on feeding and serum and VMH FA levels, rats were trained to eat a low-fat diet (LFD; 13.5%) or an HFD in 3 h/day and were monitored with VMH FA microdialysis. Despite having higher serum levels, HFD rats had lower VMH FA levels but ate less from 3 to 6 h of refeeding than did LFD rats. However, VMH β-hydroxybutyrate (β-OHB) and VMH-to-serum β-OHB ratio levels were higher in HFD rats during the first 1 h of refeeding, suggesting that VMH astrocyte ketone production mediated their reduced intake. In fact, using calcium imaging in dissociated VMH neurons showed that ketone bodies overrode normal FA sensing, primarily by exciting neurons that were activated or inhibited by oleic acid. Importantly, bilateral inhibition of VMH ketone production with a 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA synthase inhibitor reversed the 3- to 6-h HFD-induced inhibition of intake but had no effect in LFD-fed rats. These data suggest that a restricted HFD intake regimen inhibits caloric intake as a consequence of FA-induced VMH ketone body production by astrocytes.


  • Received July 12, 2013.
  • Accepted December 21, 2013.

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