Hypothalamic neuropeptides play essential roles in regulating energy and body weight balance. Energy imbalance and obesity have been linked to hypothalamic signaling defects in regulating neuropeptide genes; however, it is unknown whether dysregulation of neuropeptide exocytosis could be critically involved. This study discovered that synaptotagmin-4, an atypical modulator of synaptic exocytosis, is expressed most abundantly in oxytocin neurons of the hypothalamus. Synaptotagmin-4 negatively regulates oxytocin exocytosis, and dietary obesity is associated with increased vesicle binding of synaptotagmin-4 and thus enhanced negative regulation of oxytocin release. Overexpressing synaptotagmin-4 in hypothalamic oxytocin neurons and centrally antagonizing oxytocin in mice are similarly obesogenic. Synaptotagmin-4 inhibition prevents against dietary obesity by normalizing oxytocin release and energy balance under chronic nutritional excess. In conclusion, the negative regulation of synaptotagmin-4 on oxytocin release represents a hypothalamic basis of neuropeptide exocytosis in controlling obesity and related diseases.
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