Role of leptin in energy expenditure: the hypothalamic perspective

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2017 Jun 1;312(6):R938-R947. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00045.2016. Epub 2017 Mar 29.


The adipocyte-derived hormone leptin is a peripheral signal that informs the brain about the metabolic status of an organism. Although traditionally viewed as an appetite-suppressing hormone, studies in the past decade have highlighted the role of leptin in energy expenditure. Leptin has been shown to increase energy expenditure in particular through its effects on the cardiovascular system and brown adipose tissue (BAT) thermogenesis via the hypothalamus. The current review summarizes the role of leptin signaling in various hypothalamic nuclei and its effects on the sympathetic nervous system to influence blood pressure, heart rate, and BAT thermogenesis. Specifically, the role of leptin signaling on three different hypothalamic nuclei, the dorsomedial hypothalamus, the ventromedial hypothalamus, and the arcuate nucleus, is reviewed. It is known that all of these brain regions influence the sympathetic nervous system activity and thereby regulate BAT thermogenesis and the cardiovascular system. Thus the current work focuses on how leptin signaling in specific neuronal populations within these hypothalamic nuclei influences certain aspects of energy expenditure.

Keywords: BAT; hypothalamus; leptin; thermogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / innervation*
  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular System / innervation*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Leptin / metabolism*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Signal Transduction
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Thermogenesis


  • Leptin