• leptin;
  • NPY;
  • leptin resistance


Leptin regulates food intake and body weight by acting primarily in the hypothalamus. In humans and rodents, obesity is associated with hyperleptinaemia, suggesting a possible state of leptin resistance. Thus, to begin to examine the mechanisms of leptin resistance, we developed a rat model in which chronic central leptin infusion results in the development of resistance to leptin's satiety action. Adult male rats were infused chronically into the lateral cerebroventricle with leptin (160 ng/h) or phosphate-buffered saline via Alzet pumps for 28 days, followed by artificial cerebrospinal fluid infusion for 3 weeks. After the initial decrease in food intake, rats developed resistance to the satiety action of leptin, and withdrawal of the chronic leptin infusion resulted in hyperphagia. During leptin infusion, body weight was gradually decreased to reach a nadir on day 12, and thereafter, body weight was sustained at a reduced level throughout the entire 28-day infusion, despite normalization in food intake. Body weight was mostly normalized by day 22 postleptin. Since neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurones are one of the targets of leptin signalling in the hypothalamus, we next examined whether the development of resistance to the satiety action of leptin was due to altered NPY gene expression. On day 3–4 of infusion, hypothalamic NPY mRNA levels, as determined by RNAse protection assay (RPA), were significantly decreased in leptin treated rats compared to controls. By contrast, on day 16 of infusion, NPY mRNA levels in the leptin treated group had returned to control levels. In situ hybridization study confirmed the results obtained with RPA and showed further that the effect of chronic leptin infusion on NPY mRNA levels was restricted to the rostral and middle parts of the arcuate nucleus. Overall, the finding that the action of continuous leptin exposure on NPY neurones was not sustained suggests that NPY neurones may be involved in the development of leptin resistance to the satiety action of leptin in the hypothalamus.