Physiological role for leptin in the control of thermal conductance

Mol Metab. 2016 Jul 20;5(10):892-902. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2016.07.005. eCollection 2016 Oct.


Objective: To investigate the role played by leptin in thermoregulation, we studied the effects of physiological leptin replacement in leptin-deficient ob/ob mice on determinants of energy balance, thermogenesis and heat retention under 3 different ambient temperatures.

Methods: The effects of housing at 14 °C, 22 °C or 30 °C on core temperature (telemetry), energy expenditure (respirometry), thermal conductance, body composition, energy intake, and locomotor activity (beam breaks) were measured in ob/ob mice implanted subcutaneously with osmotic minipumps at a dose designed to deliver a physiological replacement dose of leptin or its vehicle-control.

Results: As expected, the hypothermic phenotype of ob/ob mice was partially rescued by administration of leptin at a dose that restores plasma levels into the physiological range. This effect of leptin was not due to increased energy expenditure, as cold exposure markedly and equivalently stimulated energy expenditure and induced activation of brown adipose tissue irrespective of leptin treatment. Instead, the effect of physiological leptin replacement to raise core body temperature of cold-exposed ob/ob mice was associated with reduced thermal conductance, implying a physiological role for leptin in heat conservation. Finally, both leptin- and vehicle-treated ob/ob mice failed to match energy intake to expenditure during cold exposure, resulting in weight loss.

Conclusions: The physiological effect of leptin to reduce thermal conductance contributes to maintenance of core body temperature under sub-thermoneutral conditions.

Keywords: BAT, brown adipose tissue; Body temperature; DIO, diet-induced obesity; Energy expenditure; Energy intake; Leptin; Thermal conductance; Thermoregulation; Ucp1, uncoupling protein-1; sc, subcutaneous.