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Roles of leptin in prenatal and perinatal brain development


Jun Udagawa, MD, Department of Developmental Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Shimane University, Izumo 693-8501, Japan. Email:


ABSTRACT  Leptin is a hormone that reduces food intake and increases energy expenditure by acting on the arcuate nucleus in the hypothalamus. Recent studies indicated that the neuronal circuit related to food intake in the hypothalamus is formed in the neonatal period and that leptin is necessary for the formation of this circuit. Our studies have further suggested that leptin may act on the fetal cerebral cortex, including the cingulate cortex, which is involved in motor and cognitive processes, and that leptin may affect maintenance and differentiation of neural stem cells, glial-restricted progenitor cells and/or neuronal lineage cells. These recent studies showed that leptin not only has homeostatic functions in adults, but also regulates brain development in the prenatal and neonatal periods. These findings suggest that leptin is related to formation of the normal brain structure and regenerative potency of neural cells as well as the predisposition to homeostatic dysfunction, low locomotor activity or impairment of cognitive function.