The popular media and personal anecdotes are rich with examples of stress-induced eating of calorically dense “comfort foods.” Such behavioral reactions likely contribute to the increased prevalence of obesity in humans experiencing chronic stress or atypical depression. However, the molecular substrates and neurocircuits controlling the complex behaviors responsible for stress-based eating remain mostly unknown, and few animal models have been described for probing the mechanisms orchestrating this response. Here, we describe a system in which food-reward behavior, assessed using a conditioned place preference (CPP) task, is monitored in mice after exposure to chronic social defeat stress (CSDS), a model of prolonged psychosocial stress, featuring aspects of major depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Under this regime, CSDS increased both CPP for and intake of high-fat diet, and stress-induced food-reward behavior was dependent on signaling by the peptide hormone ghrelin. Also, signaling specifically in catecholaminergic neurons mediated not only ghrelin’s orexigenic, antidepressant-like, and food-reward behavioral effects, but also was sufficient to mediate stress-induced food-reward behavior. Thus, this mouse model has allowed us to ascribe a role for ghrelin-engaged catecholaminergic neurons in stress-induced eating.
Jen-Chieh Chuang, Mario Perello, Ichiro Sakata, Sherri Osborne-Lawrence, Joseph M. Savitt, Michael Lutter, Jeffrey M. Zigman
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were accepted. No appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at email@example.com.