Leptin administration inhibits diencephalic nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity and increases brain serotonin (5-HT) metabolism in mice. We evaluated food intake, body-weight gain, diencephalic NOS activity, and diencephalic content of tryptophan (TRP), 5-HT, hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), and 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio after intracerebroventricular (ICV) or intraperitoneal (IP) leptin injection in mice. Five consecutive days of ICV or IP leptin injections induced a significant reduction in neuronal NOS (nNOS) activity, and caused a dose-dependent increase of 5-HT, 5-HIAA, and the 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio. Diencephalic 5-HT metabolism showed a significant increase in 5-HT, 5-HIAA, and the 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio 3 hours after a single leptin injection. This effect was maintained for 3 hours and had disappeared by 12 hours after injection. After a single IP leptin injection, the peak for 5-HT, 5-HIAA, and the 5-HIAA/5-HT ratio was achieved at 6 hours. Single injections of ICV or IP leptin significantly increased diencephalic 5-HT content. Leptin-induced 5-HT increase was antagonized by the coadministration of L-arginine only when the latter was ICV injected, whereas D-arginine did not influence leptin effects on brain 5-HT content. Finally, in nNOS-knockout mice, the appetite-suppressant activity of leptin was strongly reduced, and the leptin-induced increase in brain 5-HT metabolism was completely abolished. Our results indicate that the L-arginine/NO pathway is involved in mediating leptin effects on feeding behavior, and demonstrate that nNOS activity is required for the effects of leptin on brain 5-HT turnover.
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