Osteoporosis International

, Volume 19, Issue 7, pp 905–912 | Cite as

Leptin and the sympathetic connection of fat to bone

  • M. W. HamrickEmail author
  • S. L. Ferrari


Loss of body weight is associated with bone loss, and body weight gain is associated with increased bone formation. The molecular mechanisms linking body weight, body composition, and bone density are now better understood. Lean mass is likely to have a significant, local effect on bone modeling and remodeling through mechanotransduction pathways. In contrast to the local regulation of bone formation and resorption by muscle-derived stimuli, peripheral body fat appears to influence bone mass via secretion of systemic, endocrine factors that link body weight to bone density even in non-weight bearing regions (e.g., the forearm). The cytokine-like hormone leptin, which is secreted by fat cells, is an important candidate molecule linking changes in body composition with bone formation and bone resorption. Increases in body fat increase leptin levels and stimulate periosteal bone formation through its direct anabolic effects on osteoblasts, and through central (CNS) effects including the stimulation of the GH-IGF-1 axis and suppression of neuropeptide Y, a powerful inhibitor of bone formation. Stimulation of beta2-adrenergic receptors through central (hypothalamic) leptin receptors does, however, increase remodeling of trabecular bone, resulting in a lower cancellous bone volume that may be better adapted to a concomitantly larger cortical bone compartment. These findings suggest that body weight and body fat can regulate bone mass and structure through molecular pathways that are independent of load-bearing. Furthermore, pharmacological manipulation of the signaling pathways activated by leptin may have significant potential for the treatment and prevention of bone loss.


Adipogenesis Beta-adrenergic receptor Body weight Bone mass Leptin receptor 


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Copyright information

© International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cellular Biology & Anatomy, Institute of Molecular Medicine & Genetics, Department of Orthopaedic SurgeryMedical College of GeorgiaAugustaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medicine, Division of Bone DiseasesUniversity HospitalGenevaSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Cellular Biology & AnatomyMedical College of GeorgiaAugustaUSA

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