Hormone interactions regulating energy balance during pregnancy

J Neuroendocrinol. 2010 Jul;22(7):805-17. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2010.02017.x. Epub 2010 May 4.


Appetite and food intake are increased during pregnancy, comprising an adaptive response that facilitates energy storage in preparation for the high metabolic demands of pregnancy and subsequent lactation. To maintain the increased energy intake in the face of increased adiposity and rising leptin levels, pregnant females become resistant to the central anorectic actions of leptin. In rats, pregnancy-induced leptin resistance is characterised by elevated neuropeptide Y and reduced pro-opiomelanocortin expression in the arcuate nucleus, reduced leptin receptor mRNA levels and suppression of leptin-induced phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 protein in the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus, as well as a loss of anorectic responses to both leptin and alpha-melantocyte-stimulating hormone. Our recent data suggest that this leptin-resistance may also cause central insulin resistance and an altered peripheral glucose homeostasis. The specific hormone changes during pregnancy that might mediate these effects on leptin signalling are a current focus of investigation. In pseudopregnant rats, chronic i.c.v. infusion of ovine prolactin to mimic patterns of placental lactogen secretion that occur during pregnancy completely blocked the ability of leptin to suppress food intake. These data suggest that placental lactogen secretion may mediate the hormone-induced loss of response to leptin during pregnancy. This action of prolactin/placental lactogen appears to be mediated downstream of the primary leptin-responsive neurones in the mediobasal hypothalamus, possibly in the paraventricular nucleus. Our studies show complex hormone-induced adaptations in the normal hypothalamic pathways regulating body weight homeostasis during pregnancy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Eating / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / anatomy & histology
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuropeptide Y / metabolism
  • Pregnancy / metabolism*
  • Prolactin / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Leptin
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Prolactin