Smoking decreases appetite, and smokers often report that they smoke to control their weight. Understanding the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the anorexic effects of smoking would facilitate the development of novel treatments to help with smoking cessation and to prevent or treat obesity. By using a combination of pharmacological, molecular genetic, electrophysiological, and feeding studies, we found that activation of hypothalamic α3β4 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors leads to activation of pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons. POMC neurons and subsequent activation of melanocortin 4 receptors were critical for nicotinic-induced decreases in food intake in mice. This study demonstrates that nicotine decreases food intake and body weight by influencing the hypothalamic melanocortin system and identifies critical molecular and synaptic mechanisms involved in nicotine-induced decreases in appetite.
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