Deletion of Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 3 from Forebrain Neurons Delays Infertility and Onset of Hypothalamic Leptin Resistance in Response to a High Caloric Diet

J Neurosci. 2016 Jul 6;36(27):7142-53. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2714-14.2016.


The cellular processes that cause high caloric diet (HCD)-induced infertility are poorly understood but may involve upregulation of suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS-3) proteins that are associated with hypothalamic leptin resistance. Deletion of SOCS-3 from brain cells is known to protect mice from diet-induced obesity, but the effects on HCD-induced infertility are unknown. We used neuron-specific SOCS3 knock-out mice to elucidate this and the effects on regional hypothalamic leptin resistance. As expected, male and female neuron-specific SOCS3 knock-out mice were protected from HCD-induced obesity. While female wild-type mice became infertile after 4 months of HCD feeding, infertility onset in knock-out females was delayed by 4 weeks. Similarly, knock-out mice had delayed leptin resistance development in the medial preoptic area and anteroventral periventricular nucleus, regions important for generation of the surge of GnRH and LH that induces ovulation. We therefore tested whether the suppressive effects of HCD on the estradiol-induced GnRH/LH surge were overcome by neuron-specific SOCS3 knock-out. Although only 20% of control HCD-mice experienced a preovulatory-like LH surge, LH surges could be induced in almost all neuron-specific SOCS3 knock-out mice on this diet. In contrast to females, HCD-fed male mice did not exhibit any fertility decline compared with low caloric diet-fed males despite their resistance to the satiety effects of leptin. These data show that deletion of SOCS3 delays the onset of leptin resistance and infertility in HCD-fed female mice, but given continued HCD feeding this state does eventually occur, presumably in response to other mechanisms inhibiting leptin signal transduction.

Significance statement: Obesity is commonly associated with infertility in humans and other animals. Treatments for human infertility show a decreased success rate with increasing body mass index. A hallmark of obesity is an increase in circulating leptin levels; despite this, the brain responds as if there were low levels of leptin, leading to increased appetite and suppressed fertility. Here we show that leptin resistant infertility is caused in part by the leptin signaling molecule SOCS3. Deletion of SOCS3 from brain neurons delays the onset of diet-induced infertility.

Keywords: GnRH; SOCS3; high caloric diet; high fat diet; leptin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Kinase / genetics
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Kinase / metabolism
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Estrous Cycle / drug effects
  • Estrous Cycle / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Infertility / etiology
  • Infertility / therapy*
  • Leptin / metabolism*
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Prosencephalon / pathology*
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 3 Protein / deficiency*
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 3 Protein / genetics


  • Leptin
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 3 Protein
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase Kinase