Circulating leptin has saturable transport into intrathecal space in humans

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Leptin is an adipocyte-derived hormone that is thought to provide a negative feedback signal to control body fat mass by interacting with its hypothalamic receptor. The present study was undertaken to examine the uptake of leptin in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) space in humans and whether the transport of leptin into CSF space is an active phenomenon or due to free access through the blood-CSF barrier.


We determined serum and CSF leptin concentrations by radioimmunoassay in 17 men [42 ± 4 years, mean ± SE; body mass index (BMI) 27.3 ± 1.8 kg m−2] and 22 women (40 ± 3 years, BMI 25.1 ± 1.0 kg m−2). The function of the blood-CSF barrier was evaluated by determining the CSF/serum albumin ratio.


Serum leptin concentration was lower in male (5.8 ± 1.6 μg L−1) than in female subjects (13.1 ± 1.7 μg L−1, P = 0.001), whereas the concentrations of leptin in CSF were virtually identical in male (0.34 ± 0.03 μg L−1) and female (0.36 ± 0.03 μg L−1) subjects. Serum leptin was correlated positively with BMI both in men (r = 0.89, P < 0.01, n = 10) and in women (r = 0.61, P < 0.05, n = 14), whereas no correlation between CSF leptin concentration and BMI was found in either group. The CSF/serum leptin ratio correlated negatively with serum leptin concentration both in men (r = −0.93, P < 0.001) and in women (r = −0.77, P < 0.001) and with BMI both in men (r = −0.75, P = 0.02, n = 10) and in women (r = −0.64, P < 0.02, n = 14). The CSF/serum albumin ratio was not correlated with the CSF/serum leptin ratio in either group. CSF leptin concentrations and the CSF/serum leptin ratio were virtually identical in subjects with impaired and normal blood-CSF barrier function.


Thus, our data support the presence of a saturable and active transporter of leptin from circulation into intrathecal space.

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