Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) peptide is expressed in brain areas involved in homeostatic regulation and reward. CART has been shown to reduce food intake, but the underlying mechanisms and the relevance of this effect on obesity yet remain unknown. Therefore, we used immunohistochemistry to investigate the expression of CART peptide in various brain regions of the obese Otsuka Long Evans Tokushima Fatty (OLETF) rats lacking the CCK-1 receptor. Analysis revealed that whereas the distribution of CART-peptide immunoreactive neurons and axonal networks was identical in OLETF rats and lean controls, the intensity of CART immunoreactivity was significantly reduced in the rostral part of the nucleus accumbens (p < 0.01), the basolateral complex of the amygdala (p < 0.05) and the rostro-medial nucleus of the solitary tract (p < 0.001) of the OLETF rats. These areas are involved in reward and integration of taste and viscerosensory information and have been previously associated with altered functions in this strain. The findings suggest that in addition to previously described deficits in peripheral satiety signals and augmented orexigenic regulation, the anorectic effect of CART peptide may also be diminished in OLETF rats.
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