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J Biol Chem. 2000 Nov 17;275(46):36124-33.

Leptin regulates prothyrotropin-releasing hormone biosynthesis. Evidence for direct and indirect pathways.

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Division of Endocrinology, Brown University School of Medicine, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island 02903, USA.


The hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis is down-regulated during starvation, and falling levels of leptin are a critical signal for this adaptation, acting to suppress preprothyrotropin-releasing hormone (prepro-TRH) mRNA expression in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. This study addresses the mechanism for this regulation, using primary cultures of fetal rat hypothalamic neurons as a model system. Leptin dose-dependently stimulated a 10-fold increase in pro-TRH biosynthesis, with a maximum response at 10 nm. TRH release was quantified using immunoprecipitation, followed by isoelectric focusing gel electrophoresis and specific TRH radioimmunoassay. Leptin stimulated TRH release by 7-fold. Immunocytochemistry revealed that a substantial population of cells expressed TRH or leptin receptors and that 8-13% of those expressing leptin receptors coexpressed TRH. Leptin produced a 5-fold induction of luciferase activity in CV-1 cells transfected with a TRH promoter and the long form of the leptin receptor cDNA. Although the above data are consistent with a direct ability of leptin to promote TRH biosynthesis through actions on TRH neurons, addition of alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone produced a 3.5-fold increase in TRH biosynthesis and release, whereas neuropeptide Y treatment suppressed pro-TRH biosynthesis approximately 3-fold. Furthermore, the melanocortin-4 receptor antagonist SHU9119 partially inhibited leptin-stimulated TRH release from the neuronal culture. Consequently, our data suggest that leptin regulates the TRH neurons through both direct and indirect pathways.

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