Integrated genomic analysis of AgRP neurons reveals that IRF3 regulates leptin’s hunger-suppressing effects

Frankie D. HeywardNan LiuChristopher JacobsRachael IvisonNatalia MachadoAykut UnerHarini SrinivasanSuraj J. PatelAnton GulkoTyler SermersheimStuart H. OrkinLinus TsaiEvan D. Rosen

AgRP neurons in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARC) coordinate homeostatic changes in appetite associated with fluctuations in food availability and leptin signaling. Identifying the relevant transcriptional regulatory pathways in these neurons has been a priority, yet such attempts have been stymied due to their low abundance and the rich cellular diversity of the ARC. Here we generated AgRP neuron-specific transcriptomic and chromatin accessibility profiles during opposing states of fasting-induced hunger and leptin-induced hunger suppression. Cis-regulatory analysis of these integrated datasets enabled the identification of 28 putative hunger-promoting and 29 putative hunger-suppressing transcriptional regulators in AgRP neurons, 16 of which were predicted to be transcriptional effectors of leptin. Within our dataset, Interferon regulatory factor 3 (IRF3) emerged as a leading candidate mediator of leptin-induced hunger-suppression. Gain- and loss-of-function experiments in vivo confirm the role of IRF3 in mediating the acute satiety-evoking effects of leptin in AgRP neurons, while live-cell imaging in vitro indicate that leptin can activate neuronal IRF3 in a cell autonomous manner. Finally, we employ CUT&RUN to uncover direct transcriptional targets of IRF3 in AgRP neurons in vivo. Thus, our findings identify AgRP neuron-expressed IRF3 as a key transcriptional effector of the hunger-suppressing effects of leptin.