Insulin and leptin as adiposity signals

Recent Prog Horm Res. 2004:59:267-85. doi: 10.1210/rp.59.1.267.


There is now considerable consensus that the adipocyte hormone leptin and the pancreatic hormone insulin are important regulators of food intake and energy balance. Leptin and insulin fulfill many of the requirements to be putative adiposity signals to the brain. Plasma leptin and insulin levels are positively correlated with body weight and with adipose mass in particular. Furthermore, both leptin and insulin enter the brain from the plasma. The brain expresses both insulin and leptin receptors in areas important in the control of food intake and energy balance. Consistent with their roles as adiposity signals, exogenous leptin and insulin both reduce food intake when administered locally into the brain in a number of species under different experimental paradigms. Additionally, central administration of insulin antibodies increases food intake and body weight. Recent studies have demonstrated that both insulin and leptin have additive effects when administered simultaneously. Finally, we recently have demonstrated that leptin and insulin share downstream neuropeptide signaling pathways. Hence, insulin and leptin provide important negative feedback signals to the central nervous system, proportional to peripheral energy stores and coupled with catabolic circuits.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue*
  • Body Composition*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Insulin / physiology*
  • Leptin / physiology*
  • Neuropeptide Y / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • alpha-MSH / physiology


  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • alpha-MSH