Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation
Editor-in-Chief: Chetrite, Gérard S.
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Leptin and the brain
- Department of Endocrinology, Hospital Infantil Universitario Niño Jesús, Department of Pediatrics, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, CIBER de Obesidad y Nutrición (CIBERobn), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain
Leptin, which comes from the Greek root leptos meaning thin, has been the focus of intense investigation since its discovery in 1994. This hormone belongs to the cytokine family and is produced by adipocytes and circulates in proportion to fat mass, thus serving as a satiety signal and informing central metabolic control centers as to the status of peripheral energy stores. However, it participates in numerous other functions both peripherally and centrally, as indicated by the wide distribution of its various receptor isoforms. Leptin is involved in brain development, most notably in development of hypothalamic centers that control metabolism, but also in other brain areas. It acts as a nutritional cue to indicate adequacy of energy stores for pubertal development and reproductive capacity. The effects of this hormone on behavior and cognition are less well studied, but it clearly is involved in specific aspects of these physiological phenomena. As obesity is a major health problem in many areas of the world, the search for pharmacological treatments to decrease appetite and increase energy expenditure is intense. Understanding the mechanisms of actions of all physiological effects of this hormone is of great interest in the pursuit of such treatment.
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