Leptin binding activity changes with age: the link between leptin and puberty

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1999 Jul;84(7):2336-41. doi: 10.1210/jcem.84.7.5834.


The timing of the physical transition from child to adult is determined by a biological clock that switches off the pituitary gonadal axis during infancy until puberty. Body composition (and in particular, fat mass), through leptin, are critical signals to this clock. However, no direct relationship between leptin and puberty has been demonstrated. Leptin is bound in the circulation by a high-affinity binding protein, which has been identified as a soluble leptin receptor. We found circulating levels of leptin binding activity (LBA) to be low at birth, to be high in the prepubertal years, to fall through puberty, and then to remain stable during adult life. LBA correlated with pubertal status in both boys and girls. We postulate that the fall in LBA, associated with increasing age and puberty, reflects a reduction in expression of truncated leptin receptors, and leptin is then available to the full-length receptor, which transmits the biological signal for leptin. The high levels of LBA occur during the years when the pituitary gonadal axis is quiescent. Thus, the change in LBA could explain how leptin regulates puberty.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Body Mass Index
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Leptin
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Protein Binding
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proteins / physiology
  • Puberty / physiology*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface*
  • Receptors, Leptin
  • Testis / anatomy & histology
  • Testis / growth & development


  • Carrier Proteins
  • LEPR protein, human
  • Leptin
  • Proteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Leptin