Severe appetite and weight loss define the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, and can also accompany the progression of some neurodegenerative disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral scelerosis (ALS). While acute loss of hypothalamic neurons that produce appetite-stimulating neuropeptide Y (Npy) and agouti related peptide (AgRP) in adult mice or in mice homozygous for the anorexia (anx) mutation causes aphagia, our understanding of the factors that help maintain appetite regulatory circuitry is limited. Here we identify a mutation that converts an arginine to a tryptophan (R7W) in the Tyrosine receptor kinase 3 (Tyro3) gene, which resides within the anx critical interval, as contributing to the severity of anx phenotypes. Our observation that, like Tyro3-/- mice, anx/anx mice exhibit abnormal secondary platelet aggregation suggested that the R7W-Tyro3 variant might have functional consequences. Tyro3 is expressed in the hypothalamus and other brain regions affected by the anx mutation, and its mRNA localization appeared abnormal in anx/anx brains by postnatal day 19 (P19). The presence of wild type Tyro3 transgenes, but not an R7W-Tyro 3 transgene, doubled the weight and lifespans of anx/anx mice and near normal numbers of hypothalamic Npy-expressing neurons were present in Tyro3-transgenic anx/anx mice at P19. While no differences in R7W-Tyro3 signal sequence function or protein localization were discernible in vitro, distribution of R7W-Tyro3 protein differed from that of Tyro3 protein in the cerebellum of transgenic wild type mice. Thus, R7W-Tyro3 protein localization deficits are only detectable in vivo. Further analyses revealed that the R7W-Tyro3 variant is present in a few other mouse strains, and hence is not the causative anx mutation, but rather an anx modifier. Our work shows that Tyro3 has prosurvival roles in the appetite regulatory circuitry and may also provide useful insights towards the development of interventions targeting detrimental weight loss.
- Received August 8, 2016.
- Accepted December 12, 2016.
- © 2017. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd
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