Leptin, the obesity-associated hormone, exhibits direct cardioprotective effects


The Hatter Cardiovascular Institute, University College London Hospital and Medical School, 67 Chenies Mews, London WC1E 6HX, UK. E-mail: d.yellon@ucl.ac.uk


Background and purpose: Protection against ischaemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury involves PI3K-Akt and p44/42 MAPK activation. Leptin which regulates appetite and energy balance also promotes myocyte proliferation via PI3K-Akt and p44/42 MAPK activation. We, therefore, hypothesized that leptin may also exhibit cardioprotective activity.

Experimental approach: The influence of leptin on I/R injury was examined in perfused hearts from C57Bl/6 J mice that underwent 35 min global ischaemia and 35 min reperfusion, infarct size being assessed by triphenyltetrazolium chloride staining. The concomitant activation of cell-signalling pathways was investigated by Western blotting. The effect of leptin on mitochondrial permeability transition pore (MPTP) opening was studied in rat cardiomyocytes.

Key results: Leptin (10 nM) administered during reperfusion reduced infarct size significantly. Protection was blocked by either LY294002 or UO126, inhibitors of Akt and p44/42 MAPK, respectively. Western blotting confirmed that leptin stimulated p44/42 MAPK phosphorylation significantly. Akt phosphorylation was also enhanced but did not achieve statistical significance. Additionally, leptin treatment was associated with a significant increase in p38 phosphorylation. By contrast, leptin caused downregulation of phosphorylated and non-phosphorylated STAT3, and of total AMP-activated kinase. Cardiomyocytes responded to leptin with delayed opening of the MPTP and delayed time until contracture.

Conclusions and implications: Our data indicate for the first time that the adipocytokine, leptin, has direct cardioprotective properties which may involve the PI3-Akt and p44/42 MAPK pathways.

British Journal of Pharmacology (2006) 149, 5–13. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0706834