The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Activating parabrachial cannabinoid CB1 receptors selectively stimulates feeding of palatable foods in rats.

PMID 18815256


The endocannabinoid system is emerging as an integral component in central and peripheral regulation of feeding and energy balance. Our investigation analyzed behavioral roles for cannabinoid mechanisms of the pontine parabrachial nucleus (PBN) in modulating intake of presumably palatable foods containing fat and/or sugar. The PBN serves to gate neurotransmission associated with, but not limited to, the gustatory properties of food. Immunofluorescence and in vitro [(35)S]GTPgammaS autoradiography of rat tissue sections containing the PBN revealed the presence of cannabinoid receptors and their functional capability to couple to their G-proteins after incubation with the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG). The selective cannabinoid 1 receptor (CB(1)R) antagonist AM251 [N-(piperidin-1-yl)-5-(4-iodophenyl)-1-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-4-methyl-1H-pyrazole-3-carboxamide] prevented the response, demonstrating CB(1)R mediation of 2-AG-induced coupling. Microinfusions of 2-AG into the PBN in behaving rats robustly stimulated feeding of pellets high in content of fat and sucrose (HFS), pure sucrose, and pure fat (Crisco), during the first 30 min after infusion. In contrast, 2-AG failed to increase consumption of standard chow, even when the feeding regimen was manipulated to match baseline intakes of HFS. Orexigenic responses to 2-AG were attenuated by AM251, again indicating CB(1)R mediation of 2-AG actions. Furthermore, responses were regionally specific, because 2-AG failed to alter intake when infused into sites approximately 500 mum caudal to infusions that successfully stimulated feeding. Our data suggest that hedonically positive sensory properties of food enable endocannabinoids at PBN CB(1)Rs to initiate increases in eating, and, more generally, these pathways may serve a larger role in brain functions controlling behavioral responses for natural reward.