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Endocrinology. 1999 Jan;140(1):292-300.

Induction of uncoupling protein expression in brown and white adipose tissue by leptin.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston 29425, USA.


Deposition of excess body fat occurs when energy intake chronically exceeds energy expenditure. In ob/ob mice, the absence of leptin affects both components of the energy balance equation, and the mice become morbidly obese after weaning. Treatment of ob/ob mice with exogenous leptin reduces body weight by decreasing food intake and stimulating energy utilization, but even when saline- and leptin-injected ob/ob mice are pair-fed, mice receiving leptin lose significantly more weight. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to test the hypotheses that uncoupling protein-1 (UCP1) expression is reduced in adipose tissue from ob/ob mice and is restored by treatment with exogenous leptin. Lean and ob/ob mice (5-6 weeks old) were housed at 23 C and treated with leptin (20 microg/g BW x day) for 3 days before they were killed. Compared with levels in lean littermates, UCP1 messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels were lower in brown adipose tissue (BAT) and retroperitoneal white adipose tissue (WAT) from ob/ob mice. Treatment of ob/ob mice with leptin reduced body weight and produced a 4- to 5-fold increase in UCP1 mRNA levels in both interscapular BAT and retroperitoneal WAT. The increases in UCP1 mRNA were accompanied by comparable increases in UCP1 protein in mitochondrial preparations from each tissue. Given that the sole known function of UCP1 is to uncouple oxidative phosphorylation, the present results are consistent with the conclusion that leptin stimulates energy utilization in ob/ob mice by increasing thermogenic activity and capacity (UCP1). In addition, the present results suggest that decreased UCP1 expression in BAT and WAT of ob/ob mice is in part responsible for their increased metabolic efficiency and propensity to become obese.

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