Endocrinology and Metabolism

Recent advances in understanding leptin signaling and leptin resistance

David L. Morris, Liangyou Rui


The brain controls energy homeostasis and body weight by integrating various metabolic signals. Leptin, an adipose-derived hormone, conveys critical information about peripheral energy storage and availability to the brain. Leptin decreases body weight by both suppressing appetite and promoting energy expenditure. Leptin directly targets hypothalamic neurons, including AgRP and POMC neurons. These leptin-responsive neurons widely connect to other neurons in the brain, forming a sophisticated neurocircuitry that controls energy intake and expenditure. The anorexigenic actions of leptin are mediated by LEPRb, the long form of the leptin receptor, in the hypothalamus. LEPRb activates both JAK2-dependent and -independent pathways, including the STAT3, PI 3-kinase, MAPK, AMPK, and mTOR pathways. These pathways act coordinately to form a network that fully mediates leptin response. LEPRb signaling is regulated by both positive (e.g., SH2B1) and negative (e.g., SOCS3 and PTP1B) regulators and by endoplasmic reticulum stress. Leptin resistance, a primary risk factor for obesity, likely results from impairment in leptin transport, LEPRb signaling, and/or the neurocircuitry of energy balance.

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