Null mutations of the proopiomelanocortin gene (Pomc–/–) cause obesity in humans and rodents, but the contributions of central versus pituitary POMC deficiency are not fully established. To elucidate these roles, we introduced a POMC transgene (Tg) that selectively restored peripheral melanocortin and corticosterone secretion in Pomc–/– mice. Rather than improving energy balance, the genetic replacement of pituitary POMC in Pomc–/–Tg+ mice aggravated their metabolic syndrome with increased caloric intake and feed efficiency, reduced oxygen consumption, increased subcutaneous, visceral, and hepatic fat, and severe insulin resistance. Pair-feeding of Pomc–/–Tg+ mice to the daily intake of lean controls normalized their rate of weight gain but did not abolish obesity, indicating that hyperphagia is a major but not sole determinant of the phenotype. Replacement of corticosterone in the drinking water of Pomc–/– mice recapitulated the hyperphagia, excess weight gain and fat accumulation, and hyperleptinemia characteristic of genetically rescued Pomc–/–Tg+ mice. These data demonstrate that CNS POMC peptides play a critical role in energy homeostasis that is not substituted by peripheral POMC. Restoration of pituitary POMC expression to create a de facto neuronal POMC deficiency exacerbated the development of obesity, largely via glucocorticoid modulation of appetite, metabolism, and energy partitioning.
Previously published in Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2006, 116 (2), pp. 495-505 http://www.jci.org/