Hypothalamic leptin gene therapy prevents weight gain without long-term detrimental effects on bone in growing and skeletally mature female rats



Hypothalamic leptin gene therapy normalizes the mosaic skeletal phenotype of leptin-deficient ob/ob mice. However, it is not clear whether increased hypothalamic leptin alters bone metabolism in animals already producing the hormone. The objective of this study was to evaluate the long duration effects of recombinant adeno-associated virus-rat leptin (rAAV-Lep) hypothalamic gene therapy on weight gain and bone metabolism in growing and skeletally mature leptin-replete female Sprague-Dawley rats. Rats were either unoperated or implanted with cannulas in the third ventricle of the hypothalamus and injected with either rAAV-Lep or rAAV-GFP (control vector encoding green fluorescent protein) and maintained on standard rat chow fed ad libitum for either 5 or 10 weeks (starting at 3 months of age) or 18 weeks (starting at 9 months of age). Tibias, femurs, or lumbar vertebrae were analyzed by micro–computed tomography and/or histomorphometry. In comparison with age-matched rAAV-GFP rats, rAAV-Lep rats maintained a lower body weight for the duration of studies. At 5 weeks after vector administration, rAAV-Lep rats had lower cancellous bone volume and bone marrow adiposity but higher osteoblast perimeter compared with nonoperated controls. However, these values did not differ between the two groups at 10 weeks after vector administration. Differences in cancellous bone volume and architecture were not detected between the rAAV-Lep and rAAV-GFP groups at either time point. Also, rAAV-Lep had no negative effects on bone in the 9-month-old skeletally mature rats at 18 weeks after vector administration. We hypothesize that the transient reductions in bone mass and bone marrow adiposity at 5 weeks after vector administration were due to hypothalamic surgery. We conclude that increased hypothalamic leptin, sufficient to prevent weight gain, has minimal specific effects (rAAV-Lep versus rAAV-GFP) on bone metabolism in normal female rats. © 2011 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.