Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology

Dissociation of leptin secretion and adiposity during prehibernatory fattening in little brown bats

Noga Kronfeld-Schor, Christopher Richardson, Brian A. Silvia, Thomas H. Kunz, Eric P. Widmaier


Hibernating animals deposit adipose tissue before hibernation to withstand long periods of reduced energy intake. Normally, adiposity is positively correlated with increased secretion from adipose tissue of the satiety hormone, leptin. During the prehibernatory phase of the little brown bat, Myotis lucifugus, body mass and adiposity increased to a maximum within 12 days. Leptin secretion from adipose tissue in vitro and plasma leptin, however, increased before the increase in adiposity, then significantly decreased when adiposity increased. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) decreased when plasma leptin was increasing. This was followed by an increase in nonshivering thermogenic capacity and brown adipose tissue mass. We conclude that in the early prehibernatory phase, BMR decreases despite increasing plasma leptin levels, suggesting a state of relative leptin resistance at that time. At later stages, adiposity increases as BMR continues to decrease, and plasma leptin becomes dissociated from adiposity. Thus, in M. lucifugus, hibernation may be achieved partly by removing the metabolic signal of leptin during the fattening period of prehibernation.

  • white adipose tissue
  • basal metabolic rate
  • nonshivering thermogenesis
  • brown adipose tissue
  • prehibernation


  • Address for reprint requests and other correspondence: E. P. Widmaier, Dept. of Biology, Boston University, 5 Cummington St., Boston, MA 02215 (E-mail: widmaier{at}

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