The Ob gene product, leptin, is an adipocyte-secreted hormone that centrally regulates weight control. However, leptin receptor is expressed not only in the central nervous system, but also in other systems such as reproductive and hematopoietic tissues. Human leptin has previously been shown to enhance cytokine production by murine peritoneal macrophages. In this paper we show that human leptin stimulates proliferation in a dose-dependent manner and functionally activates human circulating monocytes in vitro, by inducing the production of cytokines such as TNF-alpha and IL-6. Proliferation was assessed both by [3H]thymidine and bromodeoxyuridine incorporation at 48 h. We also checked the leptin stimulated monocyte expression of activation markers by flow cytometry: CD25, HLA-DR, CD38, CD71, CD11b, and CD11c expression increased after 72 h. Moreover, leptin increases the expression of the early activation marker CD69 in monocytes but not in lymphocytes. The stimulation produced by leptin is comparable to that produced by endotoxin [lipopolysaccharide (LPS)]. In addition, leptin can potentiate the stimulatory effect of LPS or PMA. Furthermore, we studied cytokine production (TNF-alpha and IL-6) simultaneously by flow cytometric detection of intracellular cytokines in the activated monocytes. Leptin produced a dose-dependent increase in the number of activated monocytes producing cytokines. These data indicate that leptin is a potent stimulatory hormone on human peripheral blood monocytes and suggest that it may have a role as a proinflammatory cytokine.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.