The hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARC) contains 2 key neural populations, neuropeptide Y (NPY) and proopiomelanocortin (POMC), and, together with orexin neurons in the lateral hypothalamus, plays an integral role in energy homeostasis. However, no studies have examined total neuronal number and volume after high-fat diet (HFD) exposure using sophisticated stereology. We used design-based stereology to estimate NPY and POMC neuronal number and volume, as well as glial fibrillary acidic protein (astrocyte marker) and ionized calcium-binding adapter molecule 1 (microglia marker) cell number in the ARC; as well as orexin neurons in the lateral hypothalamus. Stereological analysis indicated approximately 8000 NPY and approximately 9000 POMC neurons in the ARC, and approximately 7500 orexin neurons in the lateral hypothalamus. HFD exposure did not affect total neuronal number in any population. However, HFD significantly increased average NPY cell volume and affected NPY and POMC cell volume distribution. HFD reduced orexin cell volume but had a bimodal effect on volume distribution with increased cells at relatively small volumes and decreased cells with relatively large volumes. ARC glial fibrillary acidic protein cells increased after 2 months on a HFD, although no significant difference after 6 months on chow diet or HFD was observed. No differences in ARC ionized calcium-binding adapter molecule 1 cell number were observed in any group. Thus, HFD affects ARC NPY or POMC neuronal cell volume number not cell number. Our results demonstrate the importance of stereology to perform robust unbiased analysis of cell number and volume. These data should be an empirical baseline reference to which future studies are compared.
Lemus, M. B., Bayliss, J. A., Lockie, S. K. H., Santos, V. V., Reichenbach, A., Stark, R., & Andrews, Z. B. (2015). A stereological analysis of NPY, POMC, Orexin, GFAP astrocyte, and Iba1 microglia cell A stereological analysis of NPY, POMC, Orexin, GFAP astrocyte, and Iba1 microglia cell number and volume in diet-induced obese male mice. Endocrinology, 156(5), 1701 - 1713. https://doi.org/10.1210/en.2014-1961