Sex and estrogens alter the action of glucagon-like peptide-1 on reward

Jennifer E. Richard, Rozita H. Anderberg, Lorena López-Ferreras, Kajsa Olandersson, Karolina P. Skibicka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Background: Feeding behavior is regulated through an intricate array of anorexic and orexigenic hormones acting on the central nervous system (CNS). Some of these hormones may have differential effects in males and females, effects potentially attributed to actions of gonadal steroids, especially estrogens. Central stimulation of the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptors reduces feeding and food-reward behavior by acting on CNS regions important for the anorexic actions of estrogens. Thus, we propose that the action of GLP-1 on food intake and reward may differ between sexes. Methods: Male and female rats were centrally injected with the GLP-1 analog exendin-4 (Ex4) in a non-deprived or food-restricted state; reward behavior was measured in a progressive ratio operant conditioning task. Intake of chow and palatable food were also measured. To determine if sex differences in the actions of Ex4 are due to interactions with estrogens, Ex4 treatment was preceded by treatment with a nonselective estrogen receptor-α (ERα) and ERβ or ERα-selective antagonist. Results: Central injection of Ex4 revealed increased reward behavior suppression in females, compared to males, in the operant conditioning task. This increase was present in both non-deprived and food-restricted animals with larger differences in the fed state. Intake of chow and palatable food, after Ex4, were similar in males and females. Food reward, but not food intake, effect of Ex4 was attenuated by pretreatment with ER antagonist in both sexes, suggesting that estrogens may modulate effects of Ex4 in both sexes. Furthermore, central pretreatment with ERα-selective antagonist was sufficient to attenuate effects of Ex4 on reward. Conclusions: Collectively, these data reveal that females display much higher sensitivity to the food reward impact of central GLP-1 receptor activation. Surprisingly, they also demonstrate that central ERα signaling is necessary for the actions of GLP-1 on food-reward behavior in both sexes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number59
JournalBiology of Sex Differences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 16 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Endocrinology


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