D-fenfluramine (d-FEN) was once widely prescribed and was among the most effective weight loss drugs, but was withdrawn from clinical use because of reports of cardiac complications in a subset of patients. Discerning the neurobiology underlying the anorexic action of d-FEN may facilitate the development of new drugs to prevent and treat obesity. Through a combination of functional neuroanatomy, feeding, and electrophysiology studies in rodents, we show that d-FEN-induced anorexia requires activation of central nervous system melanocortin pathways. These results provide a mechanistic explanation of d-FEN's anorexic actions and indicate that drugs targeting these downstream melanocortin pathways may prove to be effective and more selective antiobesity treatments.
Previously published in Science, 2002, Vol. 297, pp. 609-611. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/297/5581/609