Diminished sympathetic nervous system activity in genetically obese (ob/ob) mouse

J. B. Young, L. Landsberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


The genetically obese (ob/ob) mouse exhibits defective thermoregulatory responses to cold exposure. Pathophysiological explanations for this phenomenon have focused on abnormalities in intracellular metabolism or insensitivity of peripheral tissues to the thermogenic effects of catecholamines. Because the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is subject to feedback regulation, a peripheral impairment in thermogenesis should be associated with a compensatory increase in SNS activity. To examine SNS activity in the ob/ob mouse, norepinephrine (NE) turnover was measured in heart and interscapular brown adipose tissue (IBAT) of ob/ob and lean mice. The results from studies utilizing radiolabeled NE or inhibition of NE biosynthesis with α-methyl-p-tyrosine to measure NE turnover demonstrated reductions in SNS activity of 33-56% in heart and of 45-73% in IBAT in ob/ob mice at ambient temperature (22° C) compared with measurements in lean controls. During cold exposure (4°C) NE turnover increased in heart and IBAT to a similar extent in both ob/ob and lean mice, but NE turnover rates in heart, and probably in IBAT as well, remained lower in the obese mice than in the lean despite the gradual development of hypothermia in the ob/ob mice during this period. Administration of naltrexone, a long-acting opiate antagonist, failed to reverse the suppression of SNS activity observed in the ob/ob mice. These data indicate that diminished SNS activity in ob/ob mice may be an additional factor contributing to the defective thermogenesis characteristic of these animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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