Recent studies indicated an important role of connexins, gap junction proteins, in the regulation of metabolism. However, most of these studies focused on the glial expression of connexins, whereas the actions of connexins in neurons are still poorly investigated. Thus, the present study had the objective to investigate the possible involvement of gap junctions, and in particular connexin 43 (CX43), for the central regulation of energy homeostasis. Initially, we demonstrated that hypothalamic CX43 expression was suppressed in fasted mice. Using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings, we showed that pharmacological blockade of gap junctions induced hyperpolarization and decreased the frequency of action potentials in 50–70% of agouti-related protein (AgRP)-expressing neurons, depending on the blocker used (carbenoxolone disodium, TAT-Gap19 or Gap 26). When recordings were performed with a biocytin-filled pipette, this intercellular tracer was detected in surrounding cells. Then, an AgRP-specific CX43 knockout (AgRPΔCX43) mouse was generated. AgRPΔCX43 mice exhibited no differences in body weight, adiposity, food intake, energy expenditure and glucose homeostasis. Metabolic responses to 24 h fasting or during refeeding were also not altered in AgRPΔCX43 mice. However, AgRPΔCX43 male, but not female mice, exhibited a partial protection against high-fat diet-induced obesity, even though no significant changes in energy intake or expenditure were detected. In summary, our findings indicate that gap junctions regulate the activity of AgRP neurons, and AgRP-specific CX43 ablation is sufficient to mildly prevent diet-induced obesity specifically in males.
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