Paraventricular Thalamic MC3R Circuits Link Energy Homeostasis with Anxiety-Related Behavior

Dajin Cho, Kyle O’Berry, Ingrid Camila Possa-Paranhos, Jared Butts, Naraen Palanikumar, Patrick Sweeney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The hypothalamic melanocortin system is critically involved in sensing stored energy and communicating this information throughout the brain, including to brain regions controlling motivation and emotion. This system consists of first-order agouti-related peptide (AgRP) and pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons located in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus and downstream neurons containing the melanocortin-3 (MC3R) and melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R). Although extensive work has characterized the function of downstream MC4R neurons, the identity and function of MC3R-containing neurons are poorly understood. Here, we used neuroanatomical and circuit manipulation approaches in mice to identify a novel pathway linking hypothalamic melanocortin neurons to melanocortin-3 receptor neurons located in the paraventricular thalamus (PVT) in male and female mice. MC3R neurons in PVT are innervated by hypothalamic AgRP and POMC neurons and are activated by anorexigenic and aversive stimuli. Consistently, chemogenetic activation of PVT MC3R neurons increases anxiety-related behavior and reduces feeding in hungry mice, whereas inhibition of PVT MC3R neurons reduces anxiety-related behavior. These studies position PVT MC3R neurons as important cellular substrates linking energy status with neural circuitry regulating anxiety-related behavior and represent a promising potential target for diseases at the intersection of metabolism and anxiety-related behavior such as anorexia nervosa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6280-6296
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 6 2023


  • MC3R
  • anxiety
  • feeding behavior
  • melanocortins
  • paraventricular thalamus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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