Leptin action on GABAergic neurons prevents obesity and reduces inhibitory tone to POMC neurons

Neuron. 2011 Jul 14;71(1):142-54. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.05.028.


Leptin acts in the brain to prevent obesity. The underlying neurocircuitry responsible for this is poorly understood, in part because of incomplete knowledge regarding first-order, leptin-responsive neurons. To address this, we and others have been removing leptin receptors from candidate first-order neurons. While functionally relevant neurons have been identified, the observed effects have been small, suggesting that most first-order neurons remain unidentified. Here we take an alternative approach and test whether first-order neurons are inhibitory (GABAergic, VGAT⁺) or excitatory (glutamatergic, VGLUT2⁺). Remarkably, the vast majority of leptin's antiobesity effects are mediated by GABAergic neurons; glutamatergic neurons play only a minor role. Leptin, working directly on presynaptic GABAergic neurons, many of which appear not to express AgRP, reduces inhibitory tone to postsynaptic POMC neurons. As POMC neurons prevent obesity, their disinhibition by leptin action on presynaptic GABAergic neurons probably mediates, at least in part, leptin's antiobesity effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Agouti-Related Protein / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology*
  • Leptin / physiology*
  • Leptin / therapeutic use
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Leptin / genetics
  • Receptors, Leptin / metabolism
  • Receptors, Leptin / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • Agouti-Related Protein
  • Leptin
  • Receptors, Leptin
  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin