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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Sep 26;92(20):9034-7.

Regulated expression of the obese gene product (leptin) in white adipose tissue and 3T3-L1 adipocytes.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


A mutation within the obese gene was recently identified as the genetic basis for obesity in the ob/ob mouse. The obese gene product, leptin, is a 16-kDa protein expressed predominantly in adipose tissue. Consistent with leptin's postulated role as an extracellular signaling protein, human embryonic kidney 293 cells transfected with the obese gene secreted leptin with minimal intracellular accumulation. Upon differentiation of 3T3-L1 preadipocytes into adipocytes, the leptin mRNA was expressed concomitant with mRNAs encoding adipocyte marker proteins. A factor(s) present in calf serum markedly activated expression of leptin by fully differentiated 3T3-L1 adipocytes. A 16-hr fast decreased (by approximately 85%) the leptin mRNA level of adipose tissue of lean (ob/+ or +/+) mice but had no effect on the approximately 4-fold higher level in obese (ob/ob) littermates. Since the mutation at the ob locus fails to produce the functional protein, yet its cognate mRNA is overproduced, it appears that leptin is necessary for its own downregulation. Leptin mRNA was also suppressed in adipose tissue of rats during a 16-hr fast and was rapidly induced during a 4-hr refeeding period. Insulin deficiency provoked by streptozotocin also markedly down-regulated leptin mRNA and this suppression was rapidly reversed by insulin. These results suggest that insulin may regulate the expression of leptin.

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