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Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 1996;104(4):293-300.

Regulation of energy balance by leptin.

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Department of Medicine, University of Hamburg, Germany.


The high prevalence of obesity and its well documented association with the cardiovascular risk factors diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia and hypertension represents a major problem for the general health status of industrialized societies. Although numerous studies have shown that genetic factors have a major influence on the regulation of energy homeostasis and the susceptibility to obesity, the genes and predisposing mutations involved are insufficiently understood. Among several known rodent models of obesity due to single gene mutations, mice homozygous for the obese (ob) gene exhibit massive early-onset obesity, hyperphagia, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, defective thermoregulation and infertility. Recently the ob gene was identified by positional cloning and shown to be mutated in ob/ob mice. Leptin, the product of the ob gene, is a 167-amino acid secreted protein that is synthesized exclusively in adipose tissue. With the exception of ob/ob mice, circulating plasma leptin is elevated in obesity. Administration of recombinant leptin to ob/ob mice reduces fat mass, food intake, hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia. The various effects of the hormone are mediated by leptin receptors expressed at high levels in the hypothalamus, but also in several other non-neuronal tissues. A mutation in the leptin receptor gene is responsible for the obese phenotype of db/db mice. Plasma leptin in humans is positively correlated with body fat mass, suggesting that leptin resistance rather than leptin deficiency is a common feature of human obesity. This review briefly summarizes the current status of the rapidly growing evidence that leptin plays an important role in the regulation of body weight and fat deposition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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