Aim: To determine the role of leptin system in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) development by delineating the changes in serum levels of leptin and soluble leptin receptor (sOB-R).
Methods: Blood samples were collected from 30 consecutive patients with liver-biopsy-proven NAFLD and 30 patients with cholecystolithiasis (stationary phase) as controls. Serum leptin levels were determined by radioimmunoassay and concentration of sOB-R was measured by ELISA. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated for all subjects, and serum insulin, C-peptide, and lipoprotein levels were also detected.
Results: Mean serum leptin level and BMI in the NAFLD group were significantly higher than in the controls (both P < 0.001), but mean sOB-R level was lower in the NAFLD group when compared to the controls. Both men and women in the NAFLD group had higher mean serum leptin levels and lower sOB-R levels than did the men and women in the control group (all P < 0.001). There was a significant negative correlation between serum leptin and sOB-R levels (r = -0.725, P < 0.001). Multivariate analysis showed that the percentage of hepatocyte steatosis, sex, BMI, and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA IR) were independently related to serum leptin levels.
Conclusion: Elevated serum leptin seems to be a feature of steatosis, and serum leptin seems to increase as hepatocyte steatosis develops. An enhanced release of leptin is accompanied by an decrease in sOB-R concentration, which suggests higher resistance of peripheral tissues towards the action of leptin.