Expression of functional leptin receptors in rodent Leydig cells

Massimiliano Caprio, Andrea M. Isidori, Anna R. Carta, Costanzo Moretti, Maria L. Dufau, Andrea Fabbri

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Several studies indicate that the size of body fat stores and the circulating levels of the adipocyte-derived hormone leptin are able to influence the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. The leptin-hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal interactions have been mainly studied at the level of the central nervous system. In this study, we investigated the possibility that leptin may have direct effects on the rodent Leydig cell function. To probe this hypothesis, we first analyzed the expression of leptin receptors (OB-R) in rodent Leydig cells in culture. RT-PCR studies showed that rat Leydig cells express both the long (OB-Rb) and short isoform (OB-Ra) of leptin receptor, whereas MLTC-1 cells (a murine Leydig tumor cell line) express only the long isoform. Short-term (30-90 min) incubation of rat Leydig cells with increasing concentrations of leptin (2-500 ng/ml) led to a significant and dose-dependent inhibition of human (h)CG-stimulated testosterone (T) production (~60% reduction, IC50 = 20 ng/ml) but no change in basal androgen release. Also, leptin (150 ng/ml) amplified hCG-induced intracellular cAMP formation (1- to 2-fold) without modifying basal cAMP levels. Subsequent experiments showed that leptin inhibited 8Br-cAMP-stimulated T production, indicating that leptin's effect is exerted beyond cAMP. The inhibitory effect of leptin on hCG-induced T secretion was accompanied by a significant reduction of androstenedione and a concomitant rise of the precursor metabolites pregnenolone, progesterone, and 17-OH-progesterone, conceivable with a leptin-induced lesion of 17,20 lyase activity. Separate experiments performed with the MLTC-1 cells (not expressing cytochrome P450-17α) showed that leptin, though amplifying hCG-stimulated cAMP production, did not modify hCG-stimulated pregnenolone and progesterone release. These results further indicate that leptin action on steroidogenesis occurs downstream of progesterone synthesis. Northern Blot experiments showed no acute effect of leptin on cytochrome P450-17α messenger RNA accumulation in rat Leydig cells in basal and hCG-stimulated conditions, excluding that the rapid changes observed were caused by messenger RNA degradation. In conclusion, these findings, for the first time, show that leptin has direct, receptor-mediated actions on rodent Leydig cells in culture, at concentrations within the range of obese men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4939-4947
Number of pages9
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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