Forlano, P.M., and Cone, R.D. (2007) Conserved neurochemical pathways involved in hypothalamic control of energy homeostasis. The Journal of comparative neurology. 505(3):235-248.
The melanocortin system, which includes alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH) and its endogenous antagonist, agouti-related protein (AgRP), is fundamental for the central control of energy homeostasis in mammals. Recent studies have demonstrated that many neuropeptides involved in the control of ingestive behavior and energy expenditure, including melanocortins, are also expressed and functional in teleost fishes. To test the hypothesis that the underlying neural pathways involved in energy homeostasis are conserved throughout vertebrate evolution, the neuroanatomical distribution of alpha-MSH in relation to AgRP was mapped in a teleost (zebrafish, Danio rerio) by double-label immunocytochemistry. Zebrafish alpha-MSH- and AgRP-immunoreactive (ir) cells are found in discrete populations in the ventral periventricular hypothalamus, the proposed arcuate homologue in teleosts. Major ascending projections are similar for both peptides, and dense ir-fibers innervate preoptic and ventral telencephalic nuclei homologous to paraventricular, lateral septal, and amygdala nuclei in mammals. Furthermore, alpha-MSH and AgRP-ir somata and fibers are pronounced at 5 days post fertilization when yolk reserves are depleted and larvae begin to feed actively, which supports the functional significance of these peptides for feeding behavior. The conservation of melanocortin peptide function and projection pathways further support zebrafish as an excellent genetic model system to investigate basic mechanisms involved in the central regulation of energy homeostasis.