Leptin signaling is required for adaptive changes in food intake, but not energy expenditure, in response to different thermal conditions

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 10;10(3):e0119391. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0119391. eCollection 2015.


Survival of free-living animals depends on the ability to maintain core body temperature in the face of rapid and dramatic changes in their thermal environment. If food intake is not adjusted to meet the changing energy demands associated with changes of ambient temperature, a serious challenge to body energy stores can occur. To more fully understand the coupling of thermoregulation to energy homeostasis in normal animals and to investigate the role of the adipose hormone leptin to this process, comprehensive measures of energy homeostasis and core temperature were obtained in leptin-deficient ob/ob mice and their wild-type (WT) littermate controls when housed under cool (14°C), usual (22°C) or ∼ thermoneutral (30°C) conditions. Our findings extend previous evidence that WT mice robustly defend normothermia in response to either a lowering (14°C) or an increase (30°C) of ambient temperature without changes in body weight or body composition. In contrast, leptin-deficient, ob/ob mice fail to defend normothermia at ambient temperatures lower than thermoneutrality and exhibit marked losses of both body fat and lean mass when exposed to cooler environments (14°C). Our findings further demonstrate a strong inverse relationship between ambient temperature and energy expenditure in WT mice, a relationship that is preserved in ob/ob mice. However, thermal conductance analysis indicates defective heat retention in ob/ob mice, irrespective of temperature. While a negative relationship between ambient temperature and energy intake also exists in WT mice, this relationship is disrupted in ob/ob mice. Thus, to meet the thermoregulatory demands of different ambient temperatures, leptin signaling is required for adaptive changes in both energy intake and thermal conductance. A better understanding of the mechanisms coupling thermoregulation to energy homeostasis may lead to the development of new approaches for the treatment of obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite Regulation*
  • Body Composition
  • Body Temperature
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Body Weight
  • Eating
  • Energy Intake
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Leptin / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese
  • Signal Transduction


  • Leptin