Fasting is beneficial in the prevention and amelioration of the clinical manifestations of autoimmune diseases including systemic lupus erythematosus. The mechanisms responsible for these effects are not well understood. During fasting, there is a dramatic reduction of the levels of circulating leptin, an adipokine with proinflammatory effects. Leptin also inhibits CD4 +CD25 +Foxp3 + regulatory T cells, which are known to contribute significantly to the mechanisms of peripheral immune tolerance. In this study, we show that fasting-induced hypoleptinemia in (NZB X NZW)F 1 lupus-prone mice induced an expansion of functional regulatory T cells that was reversed by leptin replacement. The specificity of the findings was indicated by the lack of these effects in leptin-deficient ob/ob mice and leptin receptordeficient db/db mice. These observations help to explain the beneficial effects of fasting in autoimmunity and could be exploited for leptin-based immune intervention in systemic lupus erythematosus.
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