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Recent Prog Horm Res. 2004;59:245-66.

The use of animal models to dissect the biology of leptin.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143-0134, USA.


Our understanding of the effects of leptin have stemmed mainly from animal studies, which continue to leave important clues of its roles in physiology, metabolism, neuroscience, and cell signaling. Since its discovery, leptin has been linked to various pathways, either directly at its primary site of action in the hypothalamus, or indirectly via downstream effector pathways such as in adipocytes and muscle. Leptin's importance is exemplified by the lack of redundant backup mechanisms, since leptin-deficient mice are obese, diabetic, and sterile. Investigations uncovering the pleiotropic actions of leptin were unfolded mainly from rodent models. Thus, this chapter focuses on these studies and, more specifically, on those findings recently brought forward by transgenic mice overexpressing leptin. The vast amount of biology that has been ascribed to leptin encompasses effects on food intake, insulin sensitivity, adiposity, thermogenesis, reproduction, immunity, and bone regulation. Mechanisms underlying leptin's action revolve essentially around neural pathways but also encompass to a lesser extent peripheral mechanisms. The roles of leptin along these axes are reviewed, with particular emphasis on pathways and phenotypes generated by transgenic hyperleptinemia. An evolutionary significance of hyperleptinemia in association with development of leptin resistance is suggested as a protective armament against some of the detrimental effects caused by hyperleptinemia in transgenic mice overexpressing leptin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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