Background: Leptin plays an important role in the control of food intake and body weight homeostasis. In humans, leptin is produced by adipocytes, placental cells and secretory cells of the mammary epithelium. Recently, it has been reported that stomach glands produce leptin in rats.
Objective: To test the expression of leptin protein in human stomach and localize, by immunocytochemistry, the specific cell type producing leptin.
Design: Endoscopic stomach biopsies of six patients were used to investigate leptin production in the fundic epithelium using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) of RNA. Leptin protein was detected by immunoblot analysis and localized by immunohistochemistry and ultrastructural immunocytochemistry (immunogold method).
Results: Human gastric epithelium expresses leptin mRNA and leptin protein. The cells in the lower half of the stomach glands were immunoreactive for leptin. Ultrastructural immunocytochemistry showed leptin immunoreactivity in the pepsinogen granules of chief cells, but the granules of a specific endocrine cell type in the basal portion of the glands were also positive.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that gastric leptin could function in the short-term system to control feeding behaviour and is probably secreted in the stomach lumen by chief cells and into the stomach circulation by a special type of endocrine cell.