a1 Department of Metabolic Medicine, Imperial College London, W12 0NN, UK
Obesity is taking on pandemic proportions. The laws of thermodynamics, however, remain unchanged, as energy will be stored if less energy is expended than consumed; the storage is usually in the form of adipose tissue. Several neural, humeral and psychological factors control the complex process known as appetite. Recently, a close evolutionary relationship between the gut and brain has become apparent. The gut hormones regulate important gastrointestinal functions such as motility, secretion, absorption, provide feedback to the central nervous system on availability of nutrients and may play a part in regulating food intake. Peptide YY (PYY) is a thirty-six amino acid peptide related to neuropeptide Y (NPY) and is co-secreted with glucagon-like peptide 1. Produced by the intestinal L-cells, the highest tissue concentrations of PYY are found in distal segments of the gastrointestinal tract, although it is present throughout the gut. Following food intake PYY is released into the circulation. PYY concentrations are proportional to meal energy content and peak plasma levels appear postprandially after 1 h. PYY3-36 is a major form of PYY in both the gut mucosal endocrine cells and the circulation. Peripheral administration of PYY3-36 inhibits food intake for several hours in both rodents and man. The binding of PYY3-36 to the Y2 receptor leads to an inhibition of the NPY neurones and a possible reciprocal stimulation of the pro-opiomelanocortin neurones. Thus, PYY3-36 appears to control food intake by providing a powerful feedback on the hypothalamic circuits. The effect on food intake has been demonstrated at physiological concentrations and, therefore, PYY3-36 may be important in the everyday regulation of food intake.