Leptin is a mainly adipocyte-secreted protein that was discovered 5 years ago. Most of the research following this discovery focused on the role of leptin in body weight regulation, aiming to illuminate the pathophysiology of human obesity. However, more and more data are emerging that leptin is not only important in the regulation of food intake and energy balance, but that it also has a function as a metabolic and neuroendocrine hormone. It is now clear that it is especially involved in glucose metabolism, as well as in normal sexual maturation and reproduction. Besides this, interactions with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, thyroid and GH axes and even with haematopoiesis and the immune system have also been described. It has been shown that leptin secretion by the adipocyte is partly regulated by other hormones, such as insulin, cortisol, and sex steroids, mainly testosterone. Also, other hormones like thyroid hormone and GH are possibly involved in leptin synthesis. Leptin itself exerts effects on different endocrine axes, mainly on the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis and on insulin metabolism, but also on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, thyroid and GH axes. Leptin may thus be considered a new endocrine mediator, besides its obvious role in body weight regulation.
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