Hypothalamic regulation of food intake during cancer

J.T. Dwarkasing

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

Appetite is often reduced in patients with chronic illness, including cancer.

Cancer anorexia, loss of appetite, frequently co-exists with cachexia, and the combined clinical picture is known as anorexia-cachexia syndrome. In patients suffering from this syndrome, anorexia considerably contributes to the progression of cachexia, and strongly impinges on quality of life. Inflammatory processes in the hypothalamus are considered to play a crucial role in the development of disease-related anorexia.

The main aim of this thesis was to further elucidate crucial processes involved in the pathogenesis of anorexia in cancer. To investigate mechanisms specifically involved in cancer anorexia, we used two tumour mouse models with opposing food intake behaviours: a C26-colon adenocarcinoma model with increased food intake and a Lewis lung carcinoma model with decreased food intake. In both models, tumour-induced cachexia (body wasting) was strongly present. The contrast in food intake behaviour between tumour-bearing (TB) mice in response to growth of the two different tumours was used to distinguish processes involved in cachexia from those specifically involved in anorexia.

The hypothalamus was used for transcriptomic analysis (Affymetrix chips). We found expression of genes involved in serotonin signalling in the hypothalamus to be differentially regulated between the two tumour models. Furthermore, transcriptional activity of genes involved in serotonin signalling were inversely associated with food intake behaviour. Surprisingly, we also found a strong increase in gene expression of NPY and AgRP, potent orexigenic neuropeptides, in both models, meaning that their expression did not reflect food intake behaviour. However, NPY has also been described to regulate energy storage. Therefore, we hypothesized that this upregulation of NPY/AgRP corresponded to weight loss, which was severe in both tumour models.

Using hypothalamic cell lines we further explored how serotonin might act on food intake regulatory pathways. We showed that serotonin was able to inhibit neuronal NPY secretion, while not affecting gene expression. Inflammatory markers IL-6 and TNFα were also measured in plasma and it was found that C26 TB mice had a lower inflammatory response than LL TB mice. These differences in inflammatory response could be implicated in the differences in feeding behaviour and serotonin signalling between C26 and LL TB mice. We therefore investigated the direct influence of inflammation on hypothalamic serotonin turnover and its contribution to the development of anorexia. To this end, different doses of TNF and IL-6 were administered by injection to healthy mice, inducing an acute inflammatory response. The injected cytokine doses were estimated from their corresponding plasma levels measured in tumour bearing (TB) mice. Also in this cytokine induced-anorexia model, where anorexia was exclusively induced by an inflammatory response, serotonin metabolism in the hypothalamus was affected. Both TNF and IL-6 increased hypothalamic serotonin turnover while also inducing anorectic behaviour. Furthermore, the effect of cytokines on increasing serotonin turnover was supported by in vitro experiments with hypothalamic neuronal cell lines.

In conclusion, we identified hypothalamic serotonin signalling to play a major role in the decrease in food intake during cancer. Serotonin signalling itself is modulated by inflammatory mediators. Therefore, hypothalamic inflammation is an important trigger in the failure of hypothalamic food-intake regulation, probably by affecting serotonergic signalling, which acts as an upstream modulator of various orexigenic and anorexigenic systems.

 

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Witkamp, Renger, Promotor
  • van Norren, Klaske, Co-promotor
  • Boekschoten, Mark, Co-promotor
Award date11 Nov 2015
Place of PublicationWageningen
Publisher
Print ISBNs9789462575486
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • hypothalamic regulation
  • anorexia
  • appetite control
  • food intake
  • cancer
  • chronic diseases
  • animal models
  • mice
  • serotonin

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