Agouti-Related Protein 2 Is a New Player in the Teleost Stress Response System

Inbal Shainer*, Maximilian Michel, Gregory D. Marquart, Ashwin A. Bhandiwad, Nilli Zmora, Zohar Ben-Moshe Livne, Yonathan Zohar, Adi Hazak, Yael Mazon, Dominique Förster, Lian Hollander-Cohen, Roger D. Cone, Harold A. Burgess, Yoav Gothilf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Agouti-related protein (AgRP) is a hypothalamic regulator of food consumption in mammals. However, AgRP has also been detected in circulation, but a possible endocrine role has not been examined. Zebrafish possess two agrp genes: hypothalamically expressed agrp1, considered functionally equivalent to the single mammalian agrp, and agrp2, which is expressed in pre-optic neurons and uncharacterized pineal gland cells and whose function is not well understood. By ablation of AgRP1-expressing neurons and knockout of the agrp1 gene, we show that AgRP1 stimulates food consumption in the zebrafish larvae. Single-cell sequencing of pineal agrp2-expressing cells revealed molecular resemblance to retinal-pigment epithelium cells, and anatomic analysis shows that these cells secrete peptides, possibly into the cerebrospinal fluid. Additionally, based on AgRP2 peptide localization and gene knockout analysis, we demonstrate that pre-optic AgRP2 is a neuroendocrine regulator of the stress axis that reduces cortisol secretion. We therefore suggest that the ancestral role of AgRP was functionally partitioned in zebrafish by the two AgRPs, with AgRP1 centrally regulating food consumption and AgRP2 acting as a neuroendocrine factor regulating the stress axis. Fish have two copies of the agrp gene. Shainer et al. show that hypothalamic AgRP1 neurons regulate feeding, pineal AgRP2 cells are retinal pigment epithelium-like bearing a unique secretory capability, and pre-optic AgRP2 neurons regulate the stress axis, possibly reflecting an ancestral role of the single agrp gene found in mammalians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2009-2019.e7
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 17 Jun 2019


  • circadian clock
  • cortisol
  • food consumption
  • gene knockout
  • hypothalamus
  • neuronal ablation
  • pineal gland
  • single-cell RNA sequencing
  • transgenesis
  • zebrafish


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