Quantitative Mass Spectrometry Reveals Food Intake-Induced Neuropeptide Level Changes in Rat Brain: Functional Assessment of Selected Neuropeptides as Feeding Regulators

Published in Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, 2017

Hui Ye, Jingxin Wang, Zichuan Tian, Fengfei Ma, James Dowell, Quentin Bremer, Gaoyuan Lu, Brian Baldo* and Lingjun Li*

Abstract: Endogenous neuropeptides are important signaling molecules that function as regulators of food intake and body weight. Previous work has shown that neuropeptide gene expression levels in a forebrain reward site, the nucleus accumbens (NAc), were changed by feeding. To directly monitor feeding-induced changes in neuropeptide expression levels within the NAc, we employed a combination of cryostat dissection, heat stabilization, neuropeptide extraction and label-free quantitative neuropeptidomics via a liquid chromatography-high resolution mass spectrometry platform. Using this methodology, we described the first neuropeptidome in NAc and discovered that feeding caused the expression level changes of multiple neuropeptides derived from different precursors, especially proSAAS-derived peptides such as Big LEN, PEN and little SAAS. We further investigated the regulatory functions of these neuropeptides derived from the ProSAAS family by performing an intra-NAc microinjection experiment using the identified ProSAAS neuropeptides, ‘Big-LEN′ and ‘PEN′. Big LEN significantly increased rats’ food and water intake, whereas both big LEN and PEN affected other behaviors including locomotion, drinking and grooming. In addition, we quantified the feeding-induced changes of peptides from hippocampus, hypothalamus and striatum to reveal the neuropeptide interplay among different anatomical regions. In summary, our study demonstrated neuropeptidomic changes in response to food intake in the rat NAc and other key brain regions. Importantly, the microinfusion of ProSAAS peptides into NAc revealed that they are behaviorally active in this brain site, suggesting the potential use of these peptides as therapeutics for eating disorders.