Contrasting with the predicted anorexigenic effect of increasing brain serotonin signaling, long-term use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) antidepressants correlates with body weight gain. This adverse outcome increases the risk of transitioning to obesity and interferes with treatment compliance. Here we show that orally administered fluoxetine (Flx), a widely prescribed SSRI, increased body weight by enhancing food intake in healthy mice at two different time points and through two distinct mechanisms. Within hours, Flx decreased the activity of a subset of brainstem serotonergic neurons by triggering autoinhibitory signaling through the Htr1a receptor. Upon longer treatment Flx blunted Htr2c expression/signaling, decreased the phosphorylation of Creb and Stat3 and dampened the production of POMC/α-MSH in hypothalamic neurons, thereby increasing food intake. Accordingly, exogenous stimulation of the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) by co-treating mice with Flx and lipocalin-2, an anorexigenic hormone signaling through this receptor, normalized feeding and body weight. Flx and other SSRIs also inhibit CREB/STAT3 phosphorylation in a human neuronal cell line suggesting that these non-canonical effects could also occur in long-term users of SSRIs. By defining the molecular basis of the long-term SSRIs-associated weight gain this study proposes a therapeutic strategy to counter it.
Maria Jose Ortuno, Marc Schneeberger, Anoj Ilanges, François Marchildon, Kyle Pellegrino, Jeffrey M. Friedman, Patricia Ducy