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Concept: Leptin


BACKGROUND: Numerous natural products are marketed and sold claiming to decrease body weight and fat, but few undergo finished product-specific research demonstrating their safety and efficacy. OBJECTIVE: To determine the safety and efficacy of a multi-ingredient supplement containing primarily raspberry ketone, caffeine, capsaicin, garlic, ginger and Citrus aurantium (Prograde MetabolismTM [METABO]) as an adjunct to an eight-week weight loss program. METHODS: Using a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind design, 70 obese but otherwise healthy subjects were randomly assigned to METABO or a placebo and underwent 8 weeks of daily supplementation, a calorie restricted diet, and exercise training. Subjects were tested for changes in body composition, serum adipocytokines (adiponectin, resistin, leptin, TNF-alpha, IL-6) and markers of health including heart rate and blood pressure. RESULTS: Of the 45 subjects who completed the study, significant differences were observed in: body weight (METABO -2.0% vs. placebo -0.5%, P < 0.01), fat mass (METABO -7.8 vs. placebo -2.8%, P < 0.001), lean mass (METABO +3.4% vs. placebo +0.8%, P < 0.03), waist girth (METABO -2.0% vs. placebo -0.2%, P < 0.0007), hip girth (METABO -1.7% vs. placebo -0.4%, P < 0.003), and energy levels per anchored visual analogue scale (VAS) (METABO +29.3% vs. placebo +5.1%, P < 0.04). During the first 4 weeks, effects/trends for maintaining elevated serum leptin (P < 0.03) and decreased serum resistin (P < 0.08) in the METABO group vs. placebo were also observed. No changes in systemic hemodynamics, clinical blood chemistries, adverse events, or dietary intake were noted between groups. CONCLUSIONS: METABO administration is a safe and effective adjunct to an eight-week diet and exercise weight loss program by augmenting improvements in body composition, waist and hip girth. Adherence to the eight-week weight loss program also led to beneficial changes in body fat in placebo. Ongoing studies to confirm these results and clarify the mechanisms (i.e., biochemical and neuroendocrine mediators) by which METABO exerts the observed salutary effects are being conducted.

Concepts: Nutrition, Obesity, Physical exercise, Mass, Adipose tissue, Weight loss, Dieting, Leptin


Thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue (BAT) is fundamental to energy balance and is also relevant for humans. Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) regulate adipogenesis, and, here, we describe a role for BMP8B in the direct regulation of thermogenesis. BMP8B is induced by nutritional and thermogenic factors in mature BAT, increasing the response to noradrenaline through enhanced p38MAPK/CREB signaling and increased lipase activity. Bmp8b(-/-) mice exhibit impaired thermogenesis and reduced metabolic rate, causing weight gain despite hypophagia. BMP8B is also expressed in the hypothalamus, and Bmp8b(-/-) mice display altered neuropeptide levels and reduced phosphorylation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), indicating an anorexigenic state. Central BMP8B treatment increased sympathetic activation of BAT, dependent on the status of AMPK in key hypothalamic nuclei. Our results indicate that BMP8B is a thermogenic protein that regulates energy balance in partnership with hypothalamic AMPK. BMP8B may offer a mechanism to specifically increase energy dissipation by BAT.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Leptin, Brown adipose tissue, Bone morphogenetic protein, Adiponectin


The mechanism of cardiovascular responses to chemical stimulation of the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARCN) was studied in urethane-anesthetized adult male Wistar rats. At the baseline mean arterial pressure (BLMAP) close to normal, ARCN stimulation elicited decreases in MAP and sympathetic nerve activity (SNA). The decreases in MAP elicited by ARCN stimulation were attenuated by either gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), neuropeptide Y (NPY), or beta-endorphin receptor blockade in the ipsilateral hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN). Combined blockade of GABA-A, NPY1 and opioid receptors in the ipsilateral PVN converted the decreases in MAP and SNA to increases in these variables. Conversion of inhibitory effects on the MAP and SNA to excitatory effects following ARCN stimulation was also observed when the BLMAP was decreased to below normal levels by an infusion of sodium nitroprusside. The pressor and tachycardic responses to ARCN stimulation at below normal BLMAP were attenuated by blockade of melanocortin ¾ (MC3/4) receptors in the ipsilateral PVN. Unilateral blockade of GABA-A receptors in the ARCN increased the BLMAP and heart rate (HR) revealing tonic inhibition of the excitatory neurons in the ARCN. ARCN stimulation elicited tachycardia regardless of the level of BLMAP. ARCN neurons projecting to the PVN were immunoreactive for glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 (GAD67), NPY, and beta-endorphin. These results indicated that: 1) at normal BLMAP, decreases in MAP and SNA induced by ARCN stimulation were mediated via GABA-A, NPY1 and opioid receptors in the PVN, 2) lowering of BLMAP converted decreases in MAP following ARCN stimulation to increases in MAP, and 3) at below normal BLMAP, increases in MAP and HR induced by ARCN stimulation were mediated via MC3/4 receptors in the PVN. These results provide a base for future studies to explore the role of ARCN in cardiovascular diseases.

Concepts: Nervous system, Hypothalamus, Receptor, Neuroendocrinology, Leptin, Dopamine, Neuropeptide Y, Arcuate nucleus


The synthetic retinoid, Fenretinide (FEN), inhibits obesity and insulin resistance in mice and is in early clinical trials for treatment of insulin resistance in obese humans. We aimed to determine whether alterations in retinoic acid (RA)-responsive genes contribute to the beneficial effects of FEN. We examined the effect of FEN on 3T3-L1 adipocyte differentiation and alterations in gene expression in C57Bl/6 and retinaldehyde dehydrogenase (RALDH)1 knockout (KO) mice fed a high-fat (HF) diet. FEN completely inhibited adipocyte differentiation by blocking CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein (C/EBP) α/peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) γ-mediated induction of downstream genes and upregulating RA-responsive genes like cellular retinol-binding protein-1. In mice fed a HF diet, RA-responsive genes were markedly increased in adipose, liver, and hypothalamus, with short-term and long-term FEN treatment. In adipose, FEN inhibited the downregulation of PPARγ and improved insulin sensitivity and the levels of adiponectin, resistin, and serum RBP (RBP4). FEN inhibited hyperleptinemia in vivo and leptin expression in adipocytes. Surprisingly, hypothalamic neuropeptide Y expression was completely suppressed, suggesting a central effect of FEN to normalize hyperglycemia. Moreover, FEN induced RA-responsive genes in RALDH1 KO mice, demonstrating that FEN can augment RA signaling when RA synthesis is impaired. We show that FEN-mediated beneficial effects are through alterations in retinoid homeostasis genes, and these are strong candidates as therapeutic targets for the treatment of obesity and insulin resistance.

Concepts: Gene, Gene expression, Insulin, Diabetes mellitus, Obesity, Insulin resistance, Adipose tissue, Leptin


Hypothalamic leptin signalling has a key role in food intake and energy-balance control and is often impaired in obese individuals. Here we identify histone deacetylase 5 (HDAC5) as a regulator of leptin signalling and organismal energy balance. Global HDAC5 KO mice have increased food intake and greater diet-induced obesity when fed high-fat diet. Pharmacological and genetic inhibition of HDAC5 activity in the mediobasal hypothalamus increases food intake and modulates pathways implicated in leptin signalling. We show HDAC5 directly regulates STAT3 localization and transcriptional activity via reciprocal STAT3 deacetylation at Lys685 and phosphorylation at Tyr705. In vivo, leptin sensitivity is substantially impaired in HDAC5 loss-of-function mice. Hypothalamic HDAC5 overexpression improves leptin action and partially protects against HFD-induced leptin resistance and obesity. Overall, our data suggest that hypothalamic HDAC5 activity is a regulator of leptin signalling that adapts food intake and body weight to our dietary environment.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Hypothalamus, Genetics, Nutrition, Obesity, Appetite, Leptin


The CNS contributes to obesity and metabolic disease; however, the underlying neurobiological pathways remain to be fully established. Here, we show that the small GTPase Rap1 is expressed in multiple hypothalamic nuclei that control whole-body metabolism and is activated in high-fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity. Genetic ablation of CNS Rap1 protects mice from dietary obesity, glucose imbalance, and insulin resistance in the periphery and from HFD-induced neuropathological changes in the hypothalamus, including diminished cellular leptin sensitivity and increased endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and inflammation. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition of CNS Rap1 signaling normalizes hypothalamic ER stress and inflammation, improves cellular leptin sensitivity, and reduces body weight in mice with dietary obesity. We also demonstrate that Rap1 mediates leptin resistance via interplay with ER stress. Thus, neuronal Rap1 critically regulates leptin sensitivity and mediates HFD-induced obesity and hypothalamic pathology and may represent a potential therapeutic target for obesity treatment.

Concepts: Hypothalamus, Metabolism, Nutrition, Insulin, Diabetes mellitus, Obesity, Adipose tissue, Leptin


Signaling by the corticotropin-releasing factor receptor type 1 (CRFR1) plays an important role in mediating the autonomic response to stressful challenges. Multiple hypothalamic nuclei regulate sympathetic outflow. Although CRFR1 is highly expressed in the arcuate nucleus (Arc) of the hypothalamus, the identity of these neurons and the role of CRFR1 here are presently unknown. Our studies show that nearly half of Arc-CRFR1 neurons coexpress agouti-related peptide (AgRP), half of which originate from POMC precursors. Arc-CRFR1 neurons are innervated by CRF neurons in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, and CRF application decreases AgRP(+)CRFR1(+) neurons' excitability. Despite similar anatomy in both sexes, only female mice selectively lacking CRFR1 in AgRP neurons showed a maladaptive thermogenic response to cold and reduced hepatic glucose production during fasting. Thus, CRFR1, in a subset of AgRP neurons, plays a regulatory role that enables appropriate sympathetic nervous system activation and consequently protects the organism from hypothermia and hypoglycemia.

Concepts: Nervous system, Hypothalamus, Brain, Neuroendocrinology, Sympathetic nervous system, Leptin, Dopamine, Arcuate nucleus


Despite all modern advances in medicine, an effective drug treatment of obesity has not been found yet. Discovery of leptin two decades ago created hopes for treatment of obesity. However, development of leptin resistance has been a big obstacle, mitigating a leptin-centric treatment of obesity. Here, by using in silico drug-screening methods, we discovered that Celastrol, a pentacyclic triterpene extracted from the roots of Tripterygium Wilfordi (thunder god vine) plant, is a powerful anti-obesity agent. Celastrol suppresses food intake, blocks reduction of energy expenditure, and leads to up to 45% weight loss in hyperleptinemic diet-induced obese (DIO) mice by increasing leptin sensitivity, but it is ineffective in leptin-deficient (ob/ob) and leptin receptor-deficient (db/db) mouse models. These results indicate that Celastrol is a leptin sensitizer and a promising agent for the pharmacological treatment of obesity.

Concepts: Cancer, Nutrition, Obesity, Adipose tissue, Weight loss, Dieting, Appetite, Leptin


The development of obesity may be aggravated if obesity itself insulates against heat loss and thus diminishes the amount of food burnt for body temperature control. This would be particularly important under normal animal house conditions where mice experience a chronic cold stress (at ≈20 °C). We used Scholander plots (energy expenditure plotted versus ambient temperature) to examine the insulation (thermal conductance) of mice, defined as the slope of the Scholander curve at subthermoneutral temperatures. We verified the method by demonstrating that shaved mice possessed only half the insulation of nonshaved mice. We examined a series of obesity models (mice fed high-fat diets and kept at different temperatures, classical diet-induced obesity mice, ob/ob mice and obesity-prone (C57BL/6) versus obesity-resistant (129S) mice). We found that neither acclimation temperature, nor any kind or degree of obesity affected the thermal insulation of the mice, when analyzed at the whole mouse level or as energy expenditure per lean weight. Calculation per body weight erroneously implied increased insulation in obese mice. We conclude that in contrast to what would be expected, obesity of any kind does not increase thermal insulation in mice, and it does therefore not in itself aggravate the development of obesity. It may be discussed to what degree excess adipose tissue has an insulation effect in humans and especially whether significant metabolic effects are associated with insulation in humans.

Concepts: Energy, Obesity, Adipose tissue, Temperature, Heat, Leptin, Heat transfer, Degrees of freedom


The paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVH) consists of distinct functional compartments regulating neuroendocrine, behavioral, and autonomic activities that are involved in the homeostatic control of energy balance. These compartments receive synaptic inputs from neurons of the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARH) that contains orexigenic agouti-related peptide (AgRP) and anorexigenic pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neuropeptides. The axon outgrowth from the ARH to PVH occurs during a critical postnatal period and is influenced by the adipocyte-derived hormone leptin, which promotes its development. However, little is known about leptin’s role in specifying patterns of cellular connectivity in the different compartments of the PVH. To address this question, we used retrograde and immunohistochemical labeling to evaluate neuronal inputs onto sympathetic preautonomic and neuroendocrine neurons in PVH of leptin-deficient mice (Lep(ob)/Lep(ob)) exposed to a postnatal leptin treatment. In adult Lep(ob)/Lep(ob) mice, densities of AgRP- and α-melanocortin stimulating hormone (αMSH)-immunoreactive fibers were significantly reduced in neuroendocrine compartments of the PVH, but only AgRP were reduced in all regions containing preautonomic neurons. Moreover, postnatal leptin treatment significantly increased the density of AgRP-containing fibers and peptidergic inputs onto identified preautonomic, but not onto neuroendocrine cells. Neonatal leptin treatment neither rescued αMSH inputs onto neuroendocrine neurons, nor altered cellular ratios of inhibitory and excitatory inputs. These effects were associated with attenuated body weight gain, food intake and improved physiological response to sympathetic stimuli. Together, these results provide evidence that leptin directs cell type-specific patterns of ARH peptidergic inputs onto preautonomic neurons in the PVH, which contribute to normal energy balance regulation.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Hypothalamus, Action potential, Neuroendocrinology, Appetite, Leptin, Arcuate nucleus