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Adipocyte. 2019 Dec;8(1):51-60. doi: 10.1080/21623945.2019.1569447. Epub 2019 Feb 8.

Leptin stimulates autophagy/lysosome-related degradation of long-lived proteins in adipocytes.

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a Department of Clinical Biochemistry and Pharmacology , Ben-Gurion University of the Negev , Beer-Sheva , Israel.
b The National Institute of Biotechnology in the Negev , Ben-Gurion University of the Negev , Beer-Sheva , Israel.
c Department of Medicine , University of Leipzig , Leipzig , Germany.


Obesity, a condition most commonly associated with hyper-leptinemia, is also characterized by increased expression of autophagy genes and likely autophagic activity in human adipose tissue (AT). Indeed, circulating leptin levels were previously shown to positively associate with the expression levels of autophagy genes such as Autophagy related gene-5 (ATG5). Here we hypothesized that leptin acts in an autocrine-paracrine manner to increase autophagy in two major AT cell populations, adipocytes and macrophages. We followed the dynamics of autophagosomes following acute leptin administration with or without a leptin receptor antagonist (SMLA) using high-throughput live-cell imaging in murine epididymal adipocyte and macrophage (RAW264.7) cell-lines. In macrophages leptin exerted only a mild effect on autophagy dynamics, tending to attenuate autophagosomes growth rate. In contrast, leptin-treated adipocytes exhibited a moderate, ~20% increase in the rate of autophagosome growth, an effect that was blocked by SMLA. This finding corresponded to mild increases in mRNA and protein expression of key autophagy genes. Interestingly, a long-lived proteins degradation assay uncovered a robust, >2-fold leptin-mediated stimulation of the autophagy/lysosome-related (bafilomycin-inhibited) activity, which was entirely blocked by SMLA. Collectively, leptin regulates autophagy in a cell-type specific manner. In adipocytes, autophagosome dynamics is moderately enhanced, but even more pronounced stimulation is seen in autophagy-related long-lived protein degradation. These findings suggest a causal link between obesity-associated hyperleptinemia and elevated adipocyte and AT autophagy-related processes.


Adipocytes; leptin; leptin receptor antagonist; macro-autophagy; macrophages; protein degradation

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