The identification and sequencing of the ob gene and its product, leptin, in 1994 opened new insights in the study of the mechanisms controlling body weight and led to a surge of research activity. Since its discovery, leptin has been the subject of an enormous amount of work especially within the fields of nutrition, metabolism and endocrinology. Leptin is accepted as an adipose signal, and even though the underlying mechanisms are not fully clarified, leptin, in addition to the thyroid hormones, is believed to be involved in regulation during the switch from the fed to the starved state. It is not clear whether leptin and the melanocortin pathways interact with the thyroid axis under physiological conditions other than during starvation or in response to severe illness, both states in which the hypothalamo-pituitary-thyroid axis may be severely suppressed. In addition to the suggested central relationship between leptin and thyroid hormones, there might also be a peripheral relationship although this effect is not clear. Both thyroid hormones and leptin might be involved in the adaptive thermogenesis through mitochondrial uncoupling proteins and heat production because both thyroxine and triiodothyronine are involved in the starvation-induced decrease in thermogenesis. Both rodent and human studies of leptin have failed to show any consistent relationship between thyroid function and serum leptin concentrations. However, leptin might have an important role in thyroid pathophysiology due to thyroid hormone involvement in thermogenesis and regulation of uncoupling proteins. In this review, we have focused on leptin in relation to thyroid pathophysiology.
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