Leptin in immuno-rheumatological diseases

Cell Mol Immunol. 2011 May;8(3):203-12. doi: 10.1038/cmi.2010.75. Epub 2011 Mar 14.


Leptin is one of the most important hormones secreted by adipocytes, with a variety of physiological roles related to the control of metabolism and energy homeostasis. Since its discovery in 1994, leptin has attracted increasing interest in the scientific community for its pleiotropic actions. One of these functions is the relationship between nutritional status and immune competence. It structurally resembles proinflammatory cytokines, such as IL-6 and IL-12. The cytokine-like structural characteristic of leptin is implicative of its function in regulating immune responses. The role of leptin in regulating immune responses has been assessed in vitro as well as in clinical studies. It has been shown that disease conditions of reduced leptin production are associated with increased infection susceptibility. Conversely, immune-mediated disorders, such as autoimmune diseases, are associated with the increased secretion of leptin and the production of proinflammatory pathogenic cytokines. In this paper, we review the most recent advances of the role of leptin in immune-rheumatological diseases, and we discuss whether strategies aimed at modifying leptin levels could represent innovative and therapeutic tools for autoimmune disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / chemistry
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune System Diseases / immunology*
  • Immune System Diseases / therapy
  • Immunomodulation
  • Inflammation Mediators / chemistry
  • Inflammation Mediators / immunology*
  • Leptin / chemistry
  • Leptin / immunology*
  • Rheumatology
  • Structural Homology, Protein


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Leptin