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Leptin: an essential regulator of lipid metabolism.

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Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, 30 Marie Curie, Ottawa, Ont., Canada.


This paper reviews the general mechanisms by which leptin acts as a regulator of lipid reserves through changes in food intake, energy expenditure and fuel selection, with an emphasis on its direct effects on cellular lipid metabolism. Briefly, when leptin levels increase, food consumption decreases via modulation of hypothalamic neuropeptides. As well, normal decreases in energy expenditures (e.g. with diurnal cycles or reduced caloric intake) do not occur. This is probably caused by an increase in mitochondrial proton leak mediated by leptin via increases in sympathetic nervous system stimulation and thyroid hormone release. The decrease in caloric input coupled with relatively higher energy expenditure, therefore, leads to negative energy balance. Leptin also changes the fuel source from which ATP is generated. Fuel preference switches from carbohydrate (glucose) to lipid (fatty acids). This effect arises through stimulation of triacylglycerol catabolism by leptin. In vitro studies show that leptin is a potent stimulator of lipolysis and fatty acid oxidation in adipocytes and other cell types. Consequently, leptin is also a regulator of cellular triacylglycerol content. Hormonal regulation of leptin, as well as its role in fasting and seasonal weight gain and energy expenditure are also briefly discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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