Neonatal leptin treatment reverses developmental programming

Endocrinology. 2005 Oct;146(10):4211-6. doi: 10.1210/en.2005-0581. Epub 2005 Jul 14.


An adverse prenatal environment may induce long-term metabolic consequences, in particular obesity and insulin resistance. Although the mechanisms are unclear, this programming has generally been considered an irreversible change in developmental trajectory. Adult offspring of rats subjected to undernutrition during pregnancy develop obesity, hyperinsulinemia, and hyperleptinemia, especially in the presence of a high-fat diet. Reduced locomotor activity and hyperphagia contribute to the increased fat mass. Using this model of maternal undernutrition, we investigated the effects of neonatal leptin treatment on the metabolic phenotype of adult female offspring. Leptin treatment (rec-rat leptin, 2.5 microg/g.d, sc) from postnatal d 3-13 resulted in a transient slowing of neonatal weight gain, particularly in programmed offspring, and normalized caloric intake, locomotor activity, body weight, fat mass, and fasting plasma glucose, insulin, and leptin concentrations in programmed offspring in adult life in contrast to saline-treated offspring of undernourished mothers who developed all these features on a high-fat diet. Neonatal leptin had no demonstrable effects on the adult offspring of normally fed mothers. This study suggests that developmental metabolic programming is potentially reversible by an intervention late in the phase of developmental plasticity. The complete normalization of the programmed phenotype by neonatal leptin treatment implies that leptin has effects that reverse the prenatal adaptations resulting from relative fetal undernutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology
  • Adipose Tissue / growth & development
  • Aging / drug effects
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Insulin / blood
  • Leptin / pharmacology*
  • Malnutrition / physiopathology
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Weight Gain / drug effects


  • Insulin
  • Leptin