Modern societies have moved from famine to feast and obesity and its co-morbidities now sweep the world as a global epidemic. Numerous scientific laboratories and pharmaceutical companies have taken the challenge and are now exploiting novel molecular targets for treatment of obesity. The pre-proglucagon system constitutes interesting candidates as potential targets for new anti-obesity drugs. In the periphery, pre-proglucagon derived peptides, Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1), Glucagon-Like Peptide-2 (GLP-2) and oxyntomodulin (OXM) are involved in a wide variety of physiological functions, including glucose homeostasis, gastric emptying, intestinal growth, insulin secretion as well as the regulation of food intake. Peripheral administration of GLP-1 derivatives and analogues to both rodents and man have shown promising effects on food intake and body weight suggesting that such therapies constitute potential anti-obesity treatment. In the central nervous system, pre-proglucagon and hence GLP-1, GLP-2 and OXM are exclusively found in a small population of nerve cells in the nucleus of the solitary tract. These constitute a neural pathway linking the “viscerosensory” brainstem to hypothalamic nuclei involved in energy homeostasis. Intracerebroventricular administration of all of the three derived peptides robustly decrease food intake. It is evident that central GLP-1 agonism probably in combination with GLP-2 and / or OXM agonism constitute a potential pharmacological tool to reduce food intake and maybe also enhance energy expenditure. This and other aspects of the current state of the role of central pre-proglucagon in energy homeostasis are reviewed.
Keywords: pre-proglucagon derived peptides, obesity, co-morbidities, glucagon-like peptide-1, gastric emptying
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