Pain perception can become altered in individuals with eating disorders and obesity for reasons that have not been fully elucidated. We show that leptin deficiency in ob/ob mice, or leptin insensitivity in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus in mice with high-fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity, are accompanied by elevated orexin-A (OX-A) levels and orexin receptor-1 (OX1-R)-dependent elevation of the levels of the endocannabinoid, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), in the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG). In ob/ob mice, these alterations result in the following: (i) increased excitability of OX1-R-expressing vlPAG output neurons and subsequent increased OFF and decreased ON cell activity in the rostral ventromedial medulla, as assessed by patch clamp and in vivo electrophysiology; and (ii) analgesia, in both healthy and neuropathic mice. In HFD mice, instead, analgesia is only unmasked following leptin receptor antagonism. We propose that OX-A/endocannabinoid cross talk in the descending antinociceptive pathway might partly underlie increased pain thresholds in conditions associated with impaired leptin signaling. © 2016 American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. All rights reserved.
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