A Journal of Postdoctoral Research.
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The Role of Leptin in Maintaining Plasma Glucose During Starvation
Rachel J. Perry and Gerald I. Shulman
Yale University School of Medicine
Departments of Internal Medicine and Cellular & Molecular Physiology
Yale University School of Medicine
Howard Hughes Medical Institute


For 20 years it has been known that concentrations of leptin, a hormone produced by the white adipose tissue (WAT) largely in proportion to body fat, drops precipitously with starvation, particularly in lean humans and animals. The role of leptin to suppress the thyroid and reproductive axes during a prolonged fast has been well defined; however, the impact of leptin on metabolic regulation has been incompletely understood. However emerging evidence suggests that, in starvation, hypoleptinemia increases activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, promoting WAT lipolysis, increasing hepatic acetyl-CoA concentrations, and maintaining euglycemia. In addition, leptin may be largely responsible for mediating a shift from a reliance upon glucose metabolism (absorption and glycogenolysis) to fat metabolism (lipolysis increasing gluconeogenesis) which preserves substrates for the brain, heart, and other critical organs. In this way a leptin-mediated glucose-fatty acid cycle appears to maintain glycemia and permit survival in starvation.


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