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Taylor Landry, Daniel Shookster, Alec Chaves, Katrina Free, Tony Nguyen, and Hu Huang

Recent evidence identifies a potent role for aerobic exercise to modulate the activity of hypothalamic neurons related to appetite; however, these studies have been primarily performed in male rodents. Since females have markedly different neuronal mechanisms regulating food intake, the current study aimed to determine the effects of acute treadmill exercise on hypothalamic neuron populations involved in regulating appetite in female mice. Mature, untrained female mice were exposed to acute sedentary, low- (10 m/min), moderate- (14 m/min), and high (18 m/min)-intensity treadmill exercise in a randomized crossover design. Mice were fasted 10 h before exercise, and food intake was monitored for 48 h after bouts. Immunohistochemical detection of cFOS was performed 3 h post-exercise to determine the changes in hypothalamic neuropeptide Y (NPY)/agouti-related peptide (AgRP), pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), and SIM1-expressing neuron activity concurrent with the changes in food intake. Additionally, stains for pSTAT3tyr705 and pERKthr202/tyr204 were performed to detect exercise-mediated changes in intracellular signaling. Briefly, moderate- and high-intensity exercises increased 24-h food intake by 5.9 and 19%, respectively, while low-intensity exercise had no effects. Furthermore, increases in NPY/AgRPARC, SIM1PVN, and TH neuron activity were observed 3 h after high-intensity exercise, with no effects on POMCARC neurons. While no effects of exercise on pERKthr202/tyr204 were observed, pSTAT3tyr705 was elevated specifically in NPY/AgRP neurons 3 h post-exercise. Overall, aerobic exercise increased the activity of several appetite-stimulating neuron populations in the hypothalamus of female mice, which may provide insight into previously reported sexual dimorphisms in post-exercise feeding.