Obesity medication lorcaserin requires brainstem GLP-1 neurons to reduce food intake in mice


Overweight and obesity are rapidly becoming the “new normal” in developed countries, which promotes a widespread negative impact on human health. Amongst recently developed obesity medications are the serotonin 2C receptor (5-HT 2C R) agonist lorcaserin and glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists, but the brain circuits employed by these medications to produce their therapeutic effects remain to be fully defined. 5-HT 2C Rs and GLP-1Rs are widely distributed in the brain, including in the key homeostatic region the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) where GLP-1 is produced by preproglucagon (PPG NTS ) neurons. PPG NTS cells were profiled using histochemistry and single nucleus RNA sequencing (Nuc-Seq) of mouse brainstem. Transcriptomic analyses revealed 5-HT 2C R expression was widespread in PPG NTS clusters. Demonstrating the functional significance of this co-expression, lorcaserin required PPG NTS to reduce food intake. Analysis of second order neurons revealed that local GLP1-R neurons within the NTS are necessary for 5-HT 2C R NTS food intake suppression. In contrast, GLP-1R NTS were not required for GLP-1R agonist liraglutide and exendin-4’s short term feeding reduction, suggesting scope for lorcaserin and GLP1-R agonist combination therapy. In support of this, lorcaserin+liraglutide and lorcaserin+exendin-4 produced greater reductions in food intake when administered in combination as compared to monotherapies. These data provide insight into the therapeutic mechanisms of lorcaserin and identify a combination strategy to improve the therapeutic profile of lorcaserin and GLP1-R agonists.