Leptin inhibits cortisol and corticosterone secretion in pathologic human adrenocortical cells

Nikolette Szücs, Ibolya Varga, Csilla Jakab, Attila Patöcs, Edit Gláz, Miklös Töth, Röbert Kiss, Károly Rácz

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Regulation of adrenal corticosteroid secretion by leptin may involve interactions at multiple levels of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. To investigate the possible direct effects of leptin on corticosteroid secretion of human adrenocortical adenomas, cells from adrenocortical adenomas causing primary aldosteronism (n = 1) and Cushing's syndrome (n = 1), as well as cells from nonhyperfunctioning adrenocortical adenomas (n = 5) were isolated and incubated for 2 h with human recombinant leptin (1-1000 ng/ml) in the presence and absence of adrenocorticotrop hormone (ACTH), then cortisol, corticosterone and aldosterone concentrations in incubating media were determined using radioimmunoassays. It was found that leptin effectively and dose-dependently inhibited basal and ACTH-stimulated cortisol and corticosterone secretion in the three types of human adrenocortical adenoma cells. The inhibiting effect of basal corticosterone secretion was detectable in the presence of leptin concentration as low as 1 ng/ml, with decreases of corticosterone secretion to 34 ± 4%, 57 ± 11% and 79 ± 9% in Cushing's syndrome, primary aldosteronism, and nonhyperfunctioning adrenocortical adenoma cells, respectively. The inhibition of basal cortisol secretion in the presence of low concentration of leptin was less prominent, but 10 ng/ml leptin significantly diminished basal cortisol secretion to 81 ± 9% in adrenocortical adenoma cells from Cushing's syndrome, to 68 ± 6% in adenoma cells from primary aldosteronism, and to 83 ± 8% in cells from nonhyperfunctioning adenomas. The inhibition of ACTH-stimulated cortisol and corticosterone secretion by leptin was similar to those found in cells without ACTH stimulation. By contrast, leptin even at 1000 ng/ml concentration exerted no clear effect on basal and ACTH-stimulated aldosterone secretion in cells from primary aldosteronism and in those nonhyperfunctioning adenoma cells in which aldosterone secretion was detectable. These results indicate that leptin is a potent inhibitor of cortisol and corticosterone secretion in human adenomatous adrenocortical cells. The inhibition of these corticosteroids by leptin may represent a potentially important interaction that exists between leptin and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number380030
Pages (from-to)71-77
Number of pages7
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2001



  • Corticosterone
  • Cortisol
  • Cushing's syndrome
  • Leptin
  • Nonhyperfunctioning adrenal tumor
  • Primary aldosteronism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology

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