Leptin, the obesity-associated hormone, exhibits direct cardioprotective effects

Br J Pharmacol. 2006 Sep;149(1):5-13. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0706834. Epub 2006 Jul 17.


Background and purpose: Protection against ischaemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury involves PI3K-Akt and p44/42 MAPK activation. Leptin which regulates appetite and energy balance also promotes myocyte proliferation via PI3K-Akt and p44/42 MAPK activation. We, therefore, hypothesized that leptin may also exhibit cardioprotective activity.

Experimental approach: The influence of leptin on I/R injury was examined in perfused hearts from C57Bl/6 J mice that underwent 35 min global ischaemia and 35 min reperfusion, infarct size being assessed by triphenyltetrazolium chloride staining. The concomitant activation of cell-signalling pathways was investigated by Western blotting. The effect of leptin on mitochondrial permeability transition pore (MPTP) opening was studied in rat cardiomyocytes.

Key results: Leptin (10 nM) administered during reperfusion reduced infarct size significantly. Protection was blocked by either LY294002 or UO126, inhibitors of Akt and p44/42 MAPK, respectively. Western blotting confirmed that leptin stimulated p44/42 MAPK phosphorylation significantly. Akt phosphorylation was also enhanced but did not achieve statistical significance. Additionally, leptin treatment was associated with a significant increase in p38 phosphorylation. By contrast, leptin caused downregulation of phosphorylated and non-phosphorylated STAT3, and of total AMP-activated kinase. Cardiomyocytes responded to leptin with delayed opening of the MPTP and delayed time until contracture.

Conclusions and implications: Our data indicate for the first time that the adipocytokine, leptin, has direct cardioprotective properties which may involve the PI3-Akt and p44/42 MAPK pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cardiotonic Agents*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Leptin / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitochondria, Heart / drug effects
  • Mitochondria, Heart / metabolism
  • Myocardial Reperfusion Injury / pathology
  • Myocardial Reperfusion Injury / prevention & control*
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Leptin