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Yi, Chun-Xia; Walter, Marc; Gao, Yuanqing; Pitra, Soledad; Legutko, Beata; Kaelin, Stefanie; Layritz, Clarita; Garcia-Caceres, Cristina; Bielohuby, Maximilian; Bidlingmaier, Martin; Woods, Stephen C.; Ghanem, Alexander; Conzelmann, Karl-Klaus; Stern, Javier E.; Jastroch, Martin; Tschöp, Matthias H. (2017): TNF alpha drives mitochondrial stress in POMC neurons in obesity. In: Nature Communications, Vol. 8, 15143


Consuming a calorically dense diet stimulates microglial reactivity in the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH) in association with decreased number of appetite-curbing pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons;whether the reduction in POMC neuronal function is secondary to the microglial activation is unclear. Here we show that in hypercaloric diet-induced obese mice, persistently activated microglia in the MBH hypersecrete TNF alpha that in turn stimulate mitochondrial ATP production in POMC neurons, promoting mitochondrial fusion in their neurites, and increasing POMC neuronal firing rates and excitability. Specific disruption of the gene expressions of TNF alpha downstream signals TNFSF11A or NDUFAB1 in the MBH of diet-induced obese mice reverses mitochondrial elongation and reduces obesity. These data imply that in a hypercaloric environment, persistent elevation of microglial reactivity and consequent TNF alpha secretion induces mitochondrial stress in POMC neurons that contributes to the development of obesity.