Over the last few years, many studies have focused on leptin, the product of the LEP (ob) gene, searching for a possible link between energy balance and reproduction. The involvement of this peptide in the regulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal, gonadal, thyroid and somatotroph axes suggests that leptin might play a pivotal role in coordinating the activity of these axes and their relationship with the body's energy balance. The effects of leptin on hypothalamic, pituitary and peripheral hormone levels, as well as the presence of the leptin receptor in a variety of tissues, suggest both an endocrine and a paracrine mode of action. Particular attention was paid to the effect of leptin on the gonadal axis as infertility, a characteristic feature of both the leptin deficient ob/ob mice and the leptin receptor mutant db/db mice, could be corrected in ob/ob mice by leptin administration. Considerable leptin level changes were observed during puberty both in animal and human studies. A matter of controversy is the precise role of leptin in the onset of puberty: is leptin the signal that initiates puberty and the accompanying hormonal changes, or has leptin only a permissive but key role for the onset of puberty, as likely seems to be the case for the maintenance of a functional gonadotroph axis? On current evidence, a mainly permissive role seems most probable.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism