Human leptin enhances activation and proliferation of human circulating T lymphocytes

Cell Immunol. 2000 Jan 10;199(1):15-24. doi: 10.1006/cimm.1999.1594.


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 and human circulating monocytes. In this paper we have assessed the presence of leptin receptors in peripheral human T lymphocytes and we have studied their functional role. Both CD4(+) and CD8(+) T lymphocytes express leptin receptors. Moreover, we show that human leptin dose-dependently enhances proliferation and activation of human circulating T lymphocytes when they are costimulated by PHA or Con A. Leptin alone was not able to activate T lymphocytes. To confirm a direct effect of leptin on T lymphocytes, monocytes were extracted by adhesion to culture flasks. The early activation surface marker CD69 was then induced in both CD4(+) and CD8(+) T lymphocytes after 8 h stimulation with PHA or Con A. Leptin dose-dependently enhanced stimulated CD69 expression. Moreover, leptin dose-dependently enhanced the expression of the late activation markers CD25 and CD71 in both CD4(+) and CD8(+) T lymphocytes after 48 h stimulation with PHA or Con A. Finally, we have found that leptin modulates CD4(+) T lymphocyte activation toward Th1 phenotype by stimulating the synthesis of IL-2 and IFN-gamma. These results demonstrate the presence of the leptin receptor in human circulating CD4(+) and CD8(+) T lymphocytes and a functional role of leptin as a modulator (enhancer) of lymphocyte stimulation with a shift toward Th1 cytokine-production profile. This function of leptin may have some relevance in the pathophysiology of immunologic alterations related to obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / chemistry
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Concanavalin A / immunology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-2 / biosynthesis
  • Leptin / pharmacology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Molecular Weight
  • Monocytes / physiology
  • Obesity / immunology
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Phytohemagglutinins / immunology
  • Receptors, Cell Surface*
  • Receptors, Leptin
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Th1 Cells / drug effects
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / metabolism


  • Antigens, CD
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Interleukin-2
  • Leptin
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Leptin
  • leptin receptor, human
  • Concanavalin A
  • Interferon-gamma