Leptin: a diverse regulator of neuronal function


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Jenni Harvey, Neurosciences Institute, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 9SY, UK. E-mail: j.z.harvey@dundee.ac.uk


It is well documented that leptin is a circulating hormone that plays a key role in regulating food intake and body weight via its actions on specific hypothalamic nuclei. However, leptin receptors are widely expressed in the CNS, in regions not generally associated with energy homeostasis, such as the hippocampus, cortex and cerebellum. Moreover, evidence is accumulating that leptin has widespread actions in the brain. In particular, recent studies have demonstrated that leptin markedly influences the excitability of hippocampal neurons via its ability to activate large conductance Ca2+-activated K+ (BK) channels, and also to promote long-term depression of excitatory synaptic transmission. Here, we review the evidence supporting a role for this hormone in regulating hippocampal excitability.