Functional Studies of the Neuropeptide Y System : Receptor-Ligand Interaction and Regulation of Food Intake

Abstract: The members of the mammalian neuropeptide Y family, i.e. the peptides neuropeptide Y (NPY), peptide YY (PYY) and pancreatic polypeptide (PP), are all involved in regulation of food intake. In human and most other mammals they act via receptors Y1, Y2, Y4 and Y5. NPY is released in the hypothalamus and is one of the strongest appetite-stimulating neurotransmitters whereas PP and PYY are secreted from gut endocrine cells after meals and function as appetite-reducing hormones. This thesis describes studies of the NPY system at both the molecular and the physiological level. The first part describes two investigations of receptor-ligand interactions with the human Y1 and Y2 receptors. The results clarify the importance of several amino-acid residues of the human Y1 receptor. Three amino acids previously suggested by others to form a binding pocket for the carboxy-terminus of the peptide were confirmed to be crucial for interaction with peptide ligands. However, they were found to be too distantly located from each other to be able to form a binding pocket. Further investigation of the three corresponding positions in the human Y2 receptor showed that only one of the positions was important for interaction with full-length peptides. The results indicate overlapping but, surprisingly, non-identical binding of the different peptides to human Y1 and Y2 receptors, despite the fact that the two receptors share a common ancestor. The second part of the thesis describes an investigation of the effect of PP on food intake in six beagle dogs and a test for personality characteristics in dogs (TFPC). Treatment with physiological doses of PP decreased both the appetitive and the consummatory drive but had no effect on the amount food consumed. The TFPC protocol was used to map individual behavioral differences in a population of sixteen beagle dogs. The test, which included several situations that may appear in an experimental study, revealed considerable inter-individual differences in behavioral responses despite the fact that the dogs were born and housed in the same animal facility in constant controlled conditions. These results demonstrate that PP can influence food intake in distantly related mammals and emphasize the importance of considering differences in personality in experimental animals.