, Volume 4, Issue 1-2, pp 25-32

Neuroendocrine Effects of Leptin

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Leptin, the product of the obesity gene, is a cytokine-like circulating protein acting as a peripheral satiety signal to the hypothalamus. It was initially described as a secreted product of white adipose cells, but more recent data have demonstrated its expression by endocrine and neuroendocrine tissues like the ovary and the hypothalamus, as well as several anterior pituitary cell types. The effects of leptin on body weight homeostasis are mediated via different hypothalamic neurotransmitters regulating appetite and energy expenditure. In addition, leptin participates to the modulation of the activity of the neuroendocrine thyrotrope, somatotrope, corticotrope and gonadotrope axes. These endocrine effects of leptin have progressively emerged as important physiological functions of this molecule. Its role as a permissive factor for puberty and normal reproductive function in adulthood is becoming widely recognized. In addition, leptin participates in the fine tuning of the corticotrope axis. Thus, by signalling body fat stores to the hypothalamus and other endocrine organs, leptin serves as a metabolic integrator of several neuroendocrine functions. The precise site of action and mode of regulation of the gonadotrope and somatotrope axes by leptin are reviewed.