Impaired Leptin Expression and Abnormal Response to Fasting in Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone-Deficient Mice

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Leptin has been postulated to comprise part of an adipostat, whereby during states of excessive energy storage, elevated levels of the hormone prevent further weight gain by inhibiting appetite. A physiological role for leptin in this regard remains unclear because the presence of excessive food, and therefore the need to restrain overeating under natural conditions, is doubtful. We have previously shown that CRH-deficient (Crh−/−) mice have glucocorticoid insufficiency and lack the fasting-induced increase in glucocorticoid, a hormone important in stimulating leptin synthesis and secretion. We hypothesized that these mice might have low circulating leptin. Indeed, Crh−/− mice exhibited no diurnal variation of leptin, whereas normal littermates showed a clear rhythm, and their leptin levels were lower than their counterparts. A continuous peripheral CRH infusion to Crh−/− mice not only restored corticosterone levels, but it also increased leptin expression to normal. Surprisingly, 36 h of fasting elevated leptin levels in Crh−/− mice, rather than falling as in normal mice. This abnormal leptin change during fasting in Crh−/− mice was corrected by corticosterone replacement. Furthermore, Crh−/− mice lost less body weight during 24 h of fasting and ate less food during refeeding than normal littermates. Taken together, we conclude that glucocorticoid insufficiency in Crh−/− mice results in impaired leptin production as well as an abnormal increase in leptin during fasting, and propose that the fast-induced physiological reduction in leptin may play an important role to stimulate food intake during the recovery from fasting.

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