Background: Disease activity in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) is suppressed during pregnancy, whereas attack frequency increases after delivery. It is yet unclear, which immuno - endocrinological processes mediate these disease fluctuations. Leptin has been identified as a hormone that can influence inflammatory activity.
Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate whether pregnancy-induced fluctuations of serum leptin levels differed between patients with MS and controls and whether serum leptin levels correlate with periods of enhanced and diminished disease activity.
Methods: Women with MS and healthy women were prospectively followed during and after pregnancy. The MS group could be studied already at a timepoint before pregnancy. Serum leptin and soluble leptin receptor (SLR) levels were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: Pre-pregnancy serum leptin levels were (mean +/- SD) 22.9 +/- 12.8 ng/ml in the MS group. These levels increased in the third trimester to 28.5 +/- 15.0 ng/ml (P = 0.007). The third trimester serum leptin levels in healthy women were comparable, 29.4 +/- 19.0 ng/ml. Serum leptin levels after delivery dropped to 18.5 +/- 12.8 ng/ml in women with MS (P < 0.001) and to a lesser extend (22.0 +/- 17.5 ng/ml) in healthy women (P = 0.04). SLR levels showed the same pattern. Remarkably, women with the highest relative decrease in serum leptin levels after delivery had more often a postpartum relapse (P = 0.008).
Conclusion: In women with MS, leptin increased during late pregnancy. A postdelivery drop in leptin levels was observed in both the MS and control group. The postdelivery drop was associated with the occurrence of postpartum relapse.