Leptin: molecular mechanisms, systemic pro-inflammatory effects, and clinical implications

Arq Bras Endocrinol Metabol. 2012 Dec;56(9):597-607. doi: 10.1590/s0004-27302012000900001.


Leptin, the adipokine produced mainly by the white adipose tissue, plays important roles not only in the regulation of food intake, but also in controlling immunity and inflammation. It has been widely demonstrated that the absence of leptin leads to immune defects in animal and human models, ultimately increasing mortality. Leptin also regulates inflammation by means of actions on its receptor, that is widely spread across different immune cell populations. The molecular mechanisms by which leptin determines its biological actions have also been recently elucidated, and three intracellular pathways have been implicated in leptin actions: JAK-STAT, PI3K, and ERK 1/2. These pathways are closely regulated by intracellular proteins that decrease leptin biological activity. In this review, we discuss the molecular mechanisms by which leptin regulates immunity and inflammation, and associate those mechanisms with chronic inflammatory disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity / physiology
  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / physiology
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation Mediators / physiology
  • Leptin / immunology*
  • Leptin / physiology
  • Receptors, Leptin / physiology


  • Cytokines
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Leptin
  • Receptors, Leptin