Leptin Hormone Discussion
The hormone leptin regulates food intake and body weight. It can cross the blood-brain barrier. Search PubMed (www.pubmed.gov (Links to an external site.)) for blood-brain barrier and leptin and select two original research articles about leptin. Summarize the results of these articles. Which proprieties of leptin allow it to cross the blood-brain barrier? How does leptin regulate energy balance?
Leptin (from Greek λεπτός leptos, “thin”) is a hormone predominantly made by adipose cells and enterocytes in the small intestine that helps to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger, which in turn diminishes fat storage in adipocytes. Leptin acts on cell receptors in the arcuate and ventromedial nuclei, as well as other parts of the hypothalamus and dopaminergic neurons of the ventral tegmental area, consequently mediating feeding.
Although regulation of fat stores is deemed to be the primary function of leptin, it also plays a role in other physiological processes, as evidenced by its many sites of synthesis other than fat cells, and the many cell types beyond hypothalamic cells that have leptin receptors. Many of these additional functions are yet to be fully defined.
In obesity, a decreased sensitivity to leptin occurs (similar to insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes), resulting in an inability to detect satiety despite high energy stores and high levels of leptin.
Main articles: Leptin receptor and Energy expenditure
Two white mice both with similar sized ears, black eyes, and pink noses: The body of the mouse on the left, however, is about three times the width of the normal-sized mouse on the right.
A comparison of a mouse unable to produce leptin, resulting in obesity, constant hunger, and lethargy (left), and an active normal weight mouse (right)
Predominantly, the “energy expenditure hormone” leptin is made by adipose cells, and is thus labeled fat cell-specific. In the context of its effects, it is important to recognize that the short describing words direct, central, and primary are not used interchangeably. In regard to the hormone leptin, central vs peripheral refers to the hypothalamic portion of the brain vs non-hypothalamic location of action of leptin; direct vs indirect refers to whether there is no intermediary, or there is an intermediary in the mode of action of leptin; and primary vs secondary is an arbitrary description of a particular function of leptin.
Location of action
Leptin acts directly on leptin receptors in the cell membrane of different types of cells in the human body in particular, and in vertebrates in general. The leptin receptor is found on a wide range of cell types. It is a single-transmembrane-domain type I cytokine receptor, a special class of cytokine receptors. Further, leptin interacts with other hormones and energy regulators, indirectly mediating the effects of: insulin, glucagon, insulin-like growth factor, growth hormone, glucocorticoids, cytokines, and metabolites.
Mode of action
The central location of action (effect) of the fat cell-specific hormone leptin is the hypothalamus, a part of the brain, which is a part of the central nervous system. Non-hypothalamic targets of leptin are referred to as peripheral targets. There is a different relative importance of central and peripheral leptin interactions under different physiologic states, and variations between species.
The primary function of the hormone leptin is the regulation of adipose tissue mass through central hypothalamus mediated effects on hunger, food energy use, physical exercise and energy balance. Outside the brain, in the periphery of the body, leptin’s secondary functions are: modulation of energy expenditure, modulation between fetal and maternal metabolism, and that of a permissive factor in puberty, activator of immune cells, activator of beta islet cells, and growth factor.
Central nervous system
In vertebrates, the nervous system consists of two main parts, the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The primary effect of leptins is in the hypothalamus, a part of the central nervous system. Leptin receptors are expressed not only in the hypothalamus but also in other brain regions, particularly in the hippocampus. Thus some leptin receptors in the brain are classified as central (hypothalamic) and some as peripheral (non-hypothalamic).
As scientifically known so far, the general effects of leptin in the central nervous system are:
Deficiency of leptin has been shown to alter brain proteins and neuronal functions of obese mice which can be restored by leptin injection.
Leptin receptor signaling in the hippocampus enhances learning and memory. Treatment with leptin has been shown to enhance learning and memory in animal models.
In humans, low circulating plasma leptin has been associated with cognitive changes associated with anorexia, depression, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Studies in transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease have shown that chronic administration of leptin can ameliorate brain pathology and improve cognitive performance, by reducing b-amyloid and hyperphosphorylated Tau, two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s pathology.
Generally, leptin is thought to enter the brain at the choroid plexus, where the intense expression of a form of leptin receptor molecule could act as a transport mechanism.
Increased levels of melatonin causes a downregulation of leptin, however, melatonin also appears to increase leptin levels in the presence of insulin, therefore causing a decrease in appetite during sleeping. Partial sleep deprivation has also been associated with decreased leptin levels.
Mice with type 1 diabetes treated with leptin or leptin plus insulin, compared to insulin alone had better metabolic profiles: blood sugar did not fluctuate so much; cholesterol levels decreased; less body fat formed.
Leptin acts on receptors in the lateral hypothalamus to inhibit hunger and the medial hypothalamus to stimulate satiety.
In the lateral hypothalamus, leptin inhibits hunger by
counteracting the effects of neuropeptide Y, a potent hunger promoter secreted by cells in the gut and in the hypothalamus
counteracting the effects of anandamide, another potent hunger promoter that binds to the same receptors as THC
In the medial hypothalamus, leptin stimulates satiety by
promoting the synthesis of α-MSH, a hunger suppressant
Thus, a lesion in the lateral hypothalamus causes anorexia (due to a lack of hunger signals) and a lesion in the medial hypothalamus causes excessive hunger (due to a lack of satiety signals). This appetite inhibition is long-term, in contrast to the rapid inhibition of hunger by cholecystokinin (CCK) and the slower suppression of hunger between meals mediated by PYY3-36. The absence of leptin (or its receptor) leads to uncontrolled hunger and resulting obesity. Fasting or following a very-low-calorie diet lowers leptin levels. Leptin levels change more when food intake decreases than when it increases. The dynamics of leptin due to an acute change in energy balance may be related to appetite and eventually, to food intake rather than fat stores.
It controls food intake and energy expenditure by acting on receptors in the mediobasal hypothalamus.
Leptin binds to neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurons in the arcuate nucleus in such a way as to decrease the activity of these neurons. Leptin signals to the hypothalamus which produces a feeling of satiety. Moreover, leptin signals may make it easier for people to resist the temptation of foods high in calories.
Leptin receptor activation inhibits neuropeptide Y and agouti-related peptide (AgRP), and activates α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH). The NPY neurons are a key element in the regulation of hunger; small doses of NPY injected into the brains of experimental animals stimulates feeding, while selective destruction of the NPY neurons in mice causes them to become anorexic. Conversely, α-MSH is an important mediator of satiety, and differences in the gene for the α-MSH receptor are linked to obesity in humans.
Leptin interacts with six types of receptors (Ob-Ra–Ob-Rf, or LepRa-LepRf), which in turn are encoded by a single gene, LEPR. Ob-Rb is the only receptor isoform that can signal intracellularly via the JAK-STAT and MAPK signal transduction pathways, and is present in hypothalamic nuclei.
Once leptin has bound to the Ob-Rb receptor, it activates the stat3, which is phosphorylated and travels to the nucleus to effect changes in gene expression, one of the main effects being the down-regulation of the expression of endocannabinoids, responsible for increasing hunger. In response to leptin, receptor neurons have been shown to remodel themselves, changing the number and types of synapses that fire onto them.