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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e34787. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034787. Epub 2012 Apr 24.

Novel regulatory mechanisms for generation of the soluble leptin receptor: implications for leptin action.

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Institute of Laboratory Medicine, Clinical Chemistry and Molecular Diagnostics, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.



The adipokine leptin realizes signal transduction via four different membrane-anchored leptin receptor (Ob-R) isoforms in humans. However, the amount of functionally active Ob-R is affected by constitutive shedding of the extracellular domain via a so far unknown mechanism. The product of the cleavage process the so-called soluble leptin receptor (sOb-R) is the main binding protein for leptin in human blood and modulates its bioavailability. sOb-R levels are differentially regulated in metabolic disorders like type 1 diabetes mellitus or obesity and can, therefore, enhance or reduce leptin sensitivity.


To describe mechanisms of Ob-R cleavage and to investigate the functional significance of differential sOb-R levels we established a model of HEK293 cells transiently transfected with different human Ob-R isoforms. Using siRNA knockdown experiments we identified ADAM10 (A Disintegrin And Metalloproteinase 10) as a major protease for constitutive and activated Ob-R cleavage. Additionally, the induction of lipotoxicity and apoptosis led to enhanced shedding shown by increased levels of the soluble leptin receptor (sOb-R) in cell supernatants. Conversely, high leptin concentrations and ER stress reduced sOb-R levels. Decreased amounts of sOb-R due to ER stress were accompanied by impaired leptin signaling and reduced leptin binding.


Lipotoxicity and apoptosis increased Ob-R cleavage via ADAM10-dependent mechanisms. In contrast high leptin levels and ER stress led to reduced sOb-R levels. While increased sOb-R concentrations seem to directly block leptin action, reduced amounts of sOb-R may reflect decreased membrane expression of Ob-R. These findings could explain changes of leptin sensitivity which are associated with variations of serum sOb-R levels in metabolic diseases.

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