The present study was conducted to assess the effect of leptin and corticosterone on the expression of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and agouti-related protein (AGRP) in the mouse brain. To this end, a 3 x 3 factorial experiment was designed in which adrenalectomized (ADX) ob/ob mice were treated with leptin and corticosterone. Leptin and corticosterone downregulated CRH expression in the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVH). Leptin prevented the stimulating effects of ADX on the expression of CRH and the combination of small doses of leptin and corticosterone was as potent as the high dose of corticosterone in suppressing CRH mRNA expression in the PVH. Leptin and corticosterone enhanced the expression of CRH in the central nucleus of amygdala and in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. In addition, the present results confirmed the downregulating effects of leptin on the expression of AGRP mRNA in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARC), and demonstrated that this effect was more apparent in ADX mice treated with corticosterone than in ADX mice not supplemented with corticosterone. Also, leptin and corticosterone had opposite effects on the expression of POMC in the ARC. The opposite effect of leptin and corticosterone on the expression of POMC and AGRP seems consistent with the reported effects that these hormones and peptides have on food intake and thermogenesis, suggesting that the modulation of POMC and AGRP expression can be a mechanism whereby leptin and corticosterone exert their effects in the regulation of energy balance. In contrast, the similarity in the action of leptin and corticosterone is not a priori consistent with a role of CRH in the effects of these hormones in the regulation of energy balance. The downregulating effect of leptin on the expression of CRH in the PVH strongly suggests that leptin can be a potent regulator of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity. Finally, the present results suggest that the effects of leptin on the expression of CRH, POMC and AGRP are not curbed by glucocorticoids.
Copyright 2001 S. Karger AG, Basel