Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Timothy Bartness - Chair

Second Advisor

Elliott Albers

Third Advisor

Ruth Harris

Fourth Advisor

Sarah Pallas


Obesity is a growing disorder in the United States, affecting over 60% of the population. We previously defined sympathetic nervous system (SNS) outflow from brain to white adipose tissue (WAT) using a viral transneuronal tract tracer. SNS innervation of WAT is the principle initiator of lipolysis, whereas decreases in sympathetic drive promote lipid accumulation. Which of the many origins of SNS outflow from brain to WAT results in SNS-mediated changes in lipid mobilization (increases in drive) or accumulation (decrease in drive) is unknown. Previous research indicates that sympathetic denervation blocks lipid mobilization; thus, rostral sites in the neuroaxis connected to WAT via the SNS may promote WAT lipid mobilization. The hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) may play a role via its descending projections to the intermediolateral horn of the spinal cord. Therefore, the consequences of PVN lesions (PVNx) on WAT mobilization or accumulation were tested. PVNx resulted in increased lipid accumulation, indicated by increases in retroperitoneal (RWAT) , epididymal (EWAT) , and inguinal WAT (IWAT) pad masses, in fed hamsters, but PVNx did not block fasting (56 h)-induced lipid mobilization. Because adrenal medullary catecholamines, especially epinephrine, also play a minor role in lipid mobilization, we tested the contribution of catecholamine release on lipid mobilization through adrenal demedullation (ADMEDx), with and without PVNx, and found fastinginduced lipid mobilization was not blocked. There was, however, a suggestion that distal denervation of IWAT, with and without ADMEDx, partially blocked lipid mobilization. In addition, evidence suggests SNS also may be an important controller of fat cell proliferation. Surgical denervation of WAT triggers increases in fat cell number (FCN), but have not determined if this FCN increase is due to preadipocyte proliferation or differentiation of preadipocytes into mature fat cells. We also have not demonstrated what role sensory innervation may have in regulating white adipocyte proliferation. Therefore, the role of WAT sympathetic or sensory innervation on adipocyte proliferation was tested. The SNS but not sensory denervation triggered bona fide proliferation as indicated by bromodeoxyuridine plus AD3, a specific adipocyte membrane protein, colabeling. These and previous data suggest that the SNS plays a role in regulating adiposity.