The melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) system is involved in numerous functions, including energy homeostasis, food intake, sleep, stress, mood, aggression, reward, maternal behavior, social behavior, and cognition. In rodents, MCH acts on MCHR1, a G protein-coupled receptor, which is widely expressed in the brain and abundantly localized to neuronal primary cilia. Cilia act as cells’ antennas and play crucial roles in cell signaling to detect and transduce external stimuli to regulate cell differentiation and migration. Cilia are highly dynamic in terms of their length and morphology; however, it is not known if cilia length is causally regulated by MCH system activation in vivo. In the current work, we examined the effects of activation and inactivation of MCH system on cilia lengths by using different experimental models and methodologies, including organotypic brain slice cultures from rat prefrontal cortex (PFC) and caudate–putamen (CPu), in vivo pharmacological (MCHR1 agonist and antagonist GW803430), germline and conditional genetic deletion of MCHR1 and MCH, optogenetic, and chemogenetic (designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADD)) approaches. We found that stimulation of MCH system either directly through MCHR1 activation or indirectly through optogenetic and chemogenetic-mediated excitation of MCH-neuron, caused cilia shortening, detected by the quantification of the presence of ADCY3 protein, a known primary cilia marker. In contrast, inactivation of MCH signaling through pharmacological MCHR1 blockade or through genetic manipulations — germline deletion of MCHR1 and conditional ablation of MCH neurons — induced cilia lengthening. Our study is the first to uncover the causal effects of the MCH system in the regulation of the length of brain neuronal primary cilia. These findings place MCH system at a unique position in the ciliary signaling in physiological and pathological conditions and implicate MCHR1 present at primary cilia as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of pathological conditions characterized by impaired primary cilia function associated with the modification of its length.
Alhassen, W., Kobayashi, Y., Su, J. et al. Regulation of Brain Primary Cilia Length by MCH Signaling: Evidence from Pharmacological, Genetic, Optogenetic, and Chemogenic Manipulations. Mol Neurobiol 59, 245–265 (2022).
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