OBJECTIVE: Leptin is an adipocyte-secreted hormone acting as a signal to the central nervous system, where it regulates energy homeostasis and neuroendocrine processes. Leptin plasma levels are mainly regulated by the percentage of body fat, but are also controlled by several metabolic and nutritional variables. Data regarding leptin secretion suggest that it is gender regulated, and higher levels are present in women than men; however, the biological basis for this sex-related difference is unknown. To clarify those points, a systematic study with tissue cultures from human omental adipose tissue was performed. DESIGN AND METHODS: Surgically obtained samples from 137 patients (68 women, 69 men) were evaluated. The assay was standardized in periods of 24 h ending at 96 h. Each adipose tissue sample from a single donor was incubated in triplicate and leptin results expressed as the mean of the integrated secretion into the medium (nanograms of leptin/g tissue per time). RESULTS: Tissue adipose cultures showed a steady leptin secretion throughout the 96 h studied, with the peak of secretory activity reached at 48 h; afterwards, the in vitro secretion reached a plateau state. Spontaneous leptin secretion in the 24 h and 48 h period, as well as the area under the curve analyzed in the 0-48 h period, showed a gender-based difference that was significantly (P<0. 05) higher in women than in men. When data of spontaneous leptin secretion were correlated with the body mass index (BMI) of the donors, no correlation was found. This suggests that in vivo leptin levels are dependent on the total amount of fat of the individual, but independent of the leptin secretory rate by the adipose tissue of the donor. CONCLUSIONS: Leptin secretion from omental adipose tissue in vitro is: (i) significantly higher in samples from women than in samples from men; and (ii) not correlated with the BMI, showing that in vitro leptin secretion is not related to the adiposity of the donor.
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