Leptin is a small peptide hormone that is mainly, but not exclusively, produced in adipose tissue. The circulating leptin concentration therefore directly reflects the amount of body fat. Leptin was identified through positional cloning of the obese (ob) gene, which is mutated in the massively obese ob/ob mouse, and it has a pivotal role in regulating food intake and energy expenditure. It binds to the so-called long receptor (Ob-Rb) in the hypothalamus and regulates food intake through the release of other neurotransmitters. Moreover, leptin exerts several other important metabolic effects on peripheral tissue, including modification of insulin action, induction of angiogenesis, and modulation of the immune system. As a small peptide, leptin is cleared principally by the kidney. Not surprisingly, serum leptin concentrations are increased in patients with chronic renal failure and those undergoing maintenance dialysis. Whether the hyperleptinemia of chronic renal failure contributes to some uremic manifestations, such as anorexia and weight loss, requires additional investigation. The kidney expresses abundant concentrations of the truncated isoform of the leptin receptor Ob-Ra, but only a small amount of the full-length receptor Ob-Rb. We recently discovered that leptin has direct effects on renal pathophysiological characteristics. Both cultured glomerular endothelial cells and mesangial cells obtained from the diabetic db/db mouse possess the Ob-Ra receptor, but whether biological effects of leptin are transduced through this receptor remains unknown. In glomerular endothelial cells, leptin stimulates cellular proliferation, transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) synthesis, and type IV collagen production. Conversely, in mesangial cells, leptin upregulates synthesis of the TGF-beta type II receptor, but not TGF-beta1, and stimulates glucose transport and type I collagen production through signal transduction pathways involving phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase. These data suggest that leptin triggers a paracrine interaction in which glomerular endothelial cells secrete TGF-beta, to which sensitized mesangial cells may respond. Both cell types increase their expression of extracellular matrix in response to leptin. Infusion of leptin into normal rats for 3 weeks fosters the development of focal glomerulosclerosis and proteinuria. Additional previously described direct and indirect effects of leptin on the kidney include natriuresis, increased sympathetic nervous activity, and stimulation of reactive oxygen species. These findings collectively suggest that the kidney is not only a site of leptin metabolism, but also a target organ for leptin action in pathophysiological states.
Copyright 2002 by the National Kidney Foundation, Inc.