Insulin and leptin: dual adiposity signals to the brain for the regulation of food intake and body weight

Brain Res. 1999 Nov 27;848(1-2):114-23. doi: 10.1016/s0006-8993(99)01974-5.


Insulin and leptin are hypothesized to be 'adiposity signals' for the long-term regulation of body weight by the brain. Accordingly, a change in the plasma levels of leptin or insulin indicates a state of altered energy homeostasis and adiposity, and the brain responds by adjusting food intake to restore adipose tissue mass to a regulated level. The candidate site for the brain's detection of leptin adiposity signaling is the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus, where leptin inhibits expression neuropeptide Y and increases expression of the pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) precursor of alphaMSH. Insulin also inhibits arcuate nucleus expression of neuropeptide Y but its effects on other hypothalamic signaling systems are not known. Leptin-responsive neurons in the arcuate nucleus are hypothesized to project to the paraventricular nucleus and lateral hypothalamic area where they are proposed to influence the expression of peptides that regulate food intake. Future development of this model will incorporate brain pathways for integration of leptin and insulin adiposity signaling to the hypothalamus with meal-related signals that act in the caudal brainstem. Recent research showing that leptin and insulin enhance the satiety action of peripheral CCK, thereby causing meals to be terminated earlier and reducing cumulative food intake, suggests that hypothalamic pathways that are sensitive to leptin and insulin adiposity signals have anatomical connections with caudal brainstem neurons that respond to meal-related signals and regulate meal size. The recent findings that insulin alters the expression and function of neural transporters for dopamine and norepinephrine indicate that adiposity signals may influence food intake by acting on non-peptide neurotransmitter systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Leptin / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Insulin
  • Leptin