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Leptin and insulin have been identified as fuel sensors acting in part through their hypothalamic receptors to inhibit food intake and stimulate energy expenditure. As their intracellular signaling converges at the PI3K pathway, we directly addressed the role of phosphatidylinositol3,4,5-trisphosphate-mediated (PIP3-mediated) signals in hypothalamic proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons by inactivating the gene for the PIP3 phosphatase Pten specifically in this cell type. Here we show that POMC-specific disruption of Pten resulted in hyperphagia and sexually dimorphic diet-sensitive obesity. Although leptin potently stimulated Stat3 phosphorylation in POMC neurons of POMC cell-restricted Pten knockout (PPKO) mice, it failed to significantly inhibit food intake in vivo. POMC neurons of PPKO mice showed a marked hyperpolarization and a reduction in basal firing rate due to increased ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channel activity. Leptin was not able to elicit electrical activity in PPKO POMC neurons, but application of the PI3K inhibitor LY294002 and the KATP blocker tolbutamide restored electrical activity and leptin-evoked firing of POMC neurons in these mice. Moreover, icv administration of tolbutamide abolished hyperphagia in PPKO mice. These data indicate that PIP3-mediated signals are critical regulators of the melanocortin system via modulation of KATP channels.

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Invest

Publication Date





1886 - 1901


Animals, Chromones, Diet, Eating, Female, Hypoglycemic Agents, Hypothalamus, Insulin, Leptin, Male, Membrane Potentials, Mice, Mice, Knockout, Morpholines, Neurons, Obesity, PTEN Phosphohydrolase, Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases, Phosphatidylinositol Phosphates, Potassium Channels, Pro-Opiomelanocortin, Second Messenger Systems, Tolbutamide