20 YEARS OF LEPTIN: Leptin and reproduction: past milestones, present undertakings, and future endeavors

    1. Farid F Chehab
    1. Department of Laboratory Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94132, USA
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to F F Chehab; Email: chehabf{at}labmed2.ucsf.edu


    The association between leptin and reproduction originated with the leptin-mediated correction of sterility in ob/ob mice and initiation of reproductive function in normal female mice. The uncovering of a central leptin pathway regulating food intake prompted the dissection of neuroendocrine mechanisms involving leptin in the metabolic control of reproduction. The absence of leptin receptors on GnRH neurons incited a search for intermediary neurons situated between leptin-responsive and GnRH neurons. This review addresses the most significant findings that have furthered our understanding of recent progress in this new field. The role of leptin in puberty was impacted by the discovery of neurons that co-express kisspeptin, neurokinin B, and dynorphin and these could act as leptin intermediates. Furthermore, the identification of first-order leptin-responsive neurons in the premammilary ventral nucleus and other brain regions opens new avenues to explore their relationship to GnRH neurons. Central to these advances is the unveiling that agouti-related protein/neuropeptide Y neurons project onto GnRH and kisspeptin neurons, allowing for a crosstalk between food intake and reproduction. Finally, while puberty is a state of leptin sensitivity, mid-gestation represents a state of leptin resistance aimed at building energy stores to sustain pregnancy and lactation. The mechanisms underlying leptin resistance in pregnancy have lagged; however, the establishment of this natural state is significant. Reproduction and energy balance are tightly controlled and backed up by redundant mechanisms that are critical for the survival of our species. It will be the goal of the following decade to shed new light on these complex and essential pathways.

    • Received in final form 30 July 2014
    • Accepted 11 August 2014
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 12 August 2014
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