Leptin effects on immune function and energy balance are photoperiod dependent in Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus)

Endocrinology. 2001 Jul;142(7):2768-75. doi: 10.1210/endo.142.7.8271.


Many adaptations have evolved in small mammals to maximize survival during winter. One such coping tactic in many species is an alteration of immune function in advance of the stressful conditions of winter. Leptin is a hormone produced by adipose tissue, and in addition to its central role in energy metabolism, leptin mediates the interactions among energy allocation, immune function, and reproduction. To examine this interaction further, exogenous leptin was administered for 2 weeks via osmotic minipumps to Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) housed in long or short days for a total of 12 weeks. Short-day hamsters displayed the expected reductions in humoral immune function, body mass, fat mass, and food intake. In Exp 1, exogenous leptin counteracted the reduction in food intake and the suppression of immune function in short days. In Exp 2, when the leptin-induced increase in food intake in short-day hamsters was prevented, leptin did not enhance immune function. In most of the measured fat pads and body mass, leptin had no effect in long days. In sum, leptin administered to short-day animals caused them to respond, in many cases, like long-day animals. Taken together, these data suggest that leptin acts indirectly to mediate energy allocation to humoral immune function. Additionally, leptin appears to act differentially, according to photoperiod, to regulate both immune and energetic parameters.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Cricetinae
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Leptin / blood
  • Leptin / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Phodopus / physiology*
  • Photoperiod*


  • Leptin
  • Hydrocortisone