Sophie Steculorum

Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research

Research Areas


Sensory Regulation of Metabolism

Sensory food detection has recently emerged as a pivotal regulator of key feeding neurons and peripheral metabolism. Our research aims to further define the regulatory principles of sensory food detection in health and aging-associated diseases.

Research Focus

Our understanding of how our brain governs food intake and metabolism has recently been revolutionized by the discovery that key hypothalamic hunger neurons are inhibited within a few seconds upon detection of food cues, i.e. sight and smell. Cumulative evidence further demonstrated the critical importance of sensory regulation in the control of whole-body metabolism and the onset of sensory dysfunctions in aging and ageing-associated diseases such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes. However, the exact causal relationship between the onset of aging-associated diseases and sensory impairments remains elusive.

Our group ultimately intends to further our understanding of the pathophysiology of aging-associated diseases by providing novel insights into the molecular underpinnings of sensory dysfunctions associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Our Goals

Our group is keen to deepen our understanding of the fundamental principles of the central control of metabolism from embryo to adult, and aims to answer central questions such as:

  • How does the organism sense and integrate its environment to adapt its behavior according to its physiological and nutritional needs?
  • Which are the precise mechanisms and factors triggering abnormal brain wiring and consequent metabolic programming?
  • Could we bypass the unfortunate “metabolic destiny” of an individual?

We have successfully implemented various approaches to decipher novel neurocircuits controlling the sensory regulation of metabolism in mice and novel mechanisms underlying the perinatal neuro-programming of metabolic diseases.

While our understanding of the central control feeding and metabolism was recently challenged and revisited through the groundbreaking discovery of the fundamental importance of sensory perception, our knowledge of the neural mechanisms of how food-sensory perception alters hypothalamic neurocircuits, metabolism and, behavioral outcomes is scarce. Thus, one of the key research foci of our research group is to decipher the regulatory principles of food sensory perception in health and diseases by addressing three fundamental aims:

  1. Deciphering the neurocircuits mediating the sensory regulation of feeding-regulatory neurocircuits;
  2. Investigating the contributory role of the sensory-dependent control of metabolism in the etiology of obesity and type 2 diabetes;
  3. Studying the influence of early life sensory environment in the lifelong regulation of metabolism.

Key Publications

  1. Gouveia, A., de Oliveira Beleza, R.,  & Steculorum, S.M. Dynamic regulation of AgRP neuronal activity. European Journal of Neuroscience, 4(10):7458-7475
  2. Ruud J, Steculorum SM & Brüning. Neuronal control of peripheral insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. Nature Communications, 4;8:15259
  3. Steculorum SM, TimperK, Engström RuudL, Evers N,Paeger L, Bremser S, Kloppenburg P & Brüning JC. Inhibition of P2Y6-signaling in AgRP-neurons reduces food intake and improves systemic insulin sensitivity in obesity. Cell Reports, 18(7):1587-1597.
  4. Steculorum SM*, Ruud J*, KarakasiliotiI, BackesH, Engström Ruud L,Timper K, HessM, TsaousidouE, MauerJ, VogtMC, PaegerL,BremserS, KleinAC, Morgan DA, FrommoltP, Brinkkötter PT, Hammerschmidt P, BenzingT, RahmouniK, WunderlichFT, Kloppenburg P & BrüningJC. AgRP-neurons control systemic insulin sensitivity via myostatin-expression in brown-adipose tissue. Cell, 24;165(1):125-38. * Equal contributions.
  5. Steculorum SM, Paeger L, Bremser S, Evers N, Hinze Y, Idzko M, Kloppenburg P & Brüning JC. Hypothalamic UDP increases in obesity and promotes feeding via P2Y6-dependent activation of AgRP-neurons. Cell, 10;162(6):1404-17.

Research Areas