NR2A- and NR2B-NMDA receptors and drebrin within postsynaptic spines of the hippocampus correlate with hunger-evoked exercise

Yi Wen Chen, Hannah Actor-Engel, Ang Doma Sherpa, Lauren Klingensmith, Tara G. Chowdhury, Chiye Aoki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hunger evokes foraging. This innate response can be quantified as voluntary wheel running following food restriction (FR). Paradoxically, imposing severe FR evokes voluntary FR, as some animals choose to run rather than eat, even during limited periods of food availability. This phenomenon, called activity-based anorexia (ABA), has been used to identify brain changes associated with FR and excessive exercise (EX), two core symptoms of anorexia nervosa (AN), and to explore neurobiological bases of AN vulnerability. Previously, we showed a strong positive correlation between suppression of FR-evoked hyperactivity, i.e., ABA resilience, and levels of extra-synaptic GABA receptors in stratum radiatum (SR) of hippocampal CA1. Here, we tested for the converse: whether animals with enhanced expression of NMDA receptors (NMDARs) exhibit greater levels of FR-evoked hyperactivity, i.e., ABA vulnerability. Four groups of animals were assessed for NMDAR levels at CA1 spines: (1) ABA, in which 4 days of FR was combined with wheel access to allow voluntary EX; (2) FR only; (3) EX only; and (4) control (CON) that experienced neither EX nor FR. Electron microscopy revealed that synaptic NR2A-NMDARs and NR2B-NMDARs levels are significantly elevated, relative to CONs’. Individuals’ ABA severity, based on weight loss, correlated with synaptic NR2B-NMDAR levels. ABA resilience, quantified as suppression of hyperactivity, correlated strongly with reserve pools of NR2A-NMDARs in spine cytoplasm. NR2A- and NR2B-NMDAR measurements correlated with spinous prevalence of an F-actin binding protein, drebrin, suggesting that drebrin enables insertion of NR2B-NMDAR to and retention of NR2A-NMDARs away from synaptic membranes, together influencing ABA vulnerability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2271-2294
Number of pages24
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Eating disorder
  • Exercise
  • Food restriction
  • Foraging
  • Receptor trafficking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • General Neuroscience
  • Histology


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