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Hypothalamic Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons are classically known to trigger satiety. However, they encompass heterogeneous subpopulations whose functions are unknown. Here we show that POMC neurons releasing GABA, glutamate or both neurotransmitters possess distinct spatial distribution, molecular signatures and functions. Functional specificity of these subpopulations relies on the energy sensor mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1 (mTORC1), since pharmacological blockade of mTORC1, by mimicking a cellular negative energy state, simultaneously inhibited POMC/glutamatergic and activated POMC/GABAergic neurons. Chemogenetics and conditional deletion of mTORC1 then demonstrated that mTORC1 blockade in POMC neurons causes hyperphagia. This is due to decreased POMC-derived anorexigenic alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone and the recruitment of POMC/GABAergic neurotransmission, which is restrained by cannabinoid type 1 receptor signaling. Genetic inhibition of glutamate release from POMC neurons also produced hyperphagia, recapitulating the phenotype caused by mTORC1 blockade. Altogether, these findings pinpoint the molecular mechanisms engaged by POMC neurons to oppositely control feeding, thereby challenging conventional views about their functions.

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