The ovarian hormone estradiol has profound effects on most, if not all, of the nervous system. As a result, estradiol influences a variety of physiological functions and,therefore, behavior. Among its varied actions, estradiol exerts a potent inhibitory effect on food intake that is expressed in a variety of species, including humans. In recent years, this action of estradiol has been linked to the development of eating disorders, as well as the increase in appetite and weight gain that is often observed in estradiol-deficient, postmenopausal women. A crucial first step in understanding how estradiol may contribute to either of these conditions is to determine how it affects the controls of food intake in healthy animals. Available evidence suggests that the inhibitory effect of estradiol on food intake is mediated by its ability to increase the strength of other key elements within the satiety-signaling system. Here, we propose to investigate several fundamental questions regarding the possible interaction of estradiol and serotonin (5-HT), one such satiety signal, in the control of food intake in the female rat.A combination of behavioral, pharmacological, antomical, and molecular techniques will be used to investigate our central hypothesis, which is that an increase in 5-HT neurotransmission mediates the anorectic effect of estradiol in the female rat.
In Specific Aims 1 and 2, we will establish brain regions that are both necessary and sufficient for the estrogenic inhibition of food intake.
In Specific Aim 3, we will determine whether increased activation of postsynaptic 5-HT2C receptors contributes to the estrogenic inhibition of food intake.
In Specific Aim 4, we will determine whether estradiol acts with the midbrain raphe system to increase the release and/or turnover of 5-HT within specific brain regions implicated in the control of food intake. Successful completion of these studies will broaden our understanding of the behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms underlying the anorectic effect of estradiol. Because our proposed studies focus on an interactive effect of estradiol and 5-HT in the control of food intake, and abnormalities in serotonergic function have been identified in women with anorexia nervosa, completion of this work has the potential to reveal how estradiol may function as a risk factor for eating- related disorders. Thus, this proposal targets an important research question with clear clinical relevance.
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