Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology

Comparative analysis of expression and secretion of placental leptin in mammals

Jing Zhao, Thomas H. Kunz, Nancy Tumba, Laura Clamon Schulz, Chris Li, Monica Reeves, Eric P. Widmaier


Increased plasma level of leptin appears to be a ubiquitous feature of pregnant mammals. The mechanisms by which leptin levels are increased may be species specific, however, with some species upregulating adipose leptin production and others expressing leptin in the placenta. Placental leptin expression was examined in representative species of the two most abundant mammalian orders, Rodentia and Chiroptera, and in cultured human choriocarcinoma (BeWo) cells. Leptin mRNA was expressed in BeWo cells and in placentas of Myotis lucifugus (little brown bat), Eptesicus fuscus (big brown bat), and Rattus norvegicus (laboratory rat), but not the common laboratory mouse Mus musculus. cAMP stimulated secretion of leptin from BeWo cells and also stimulated leptin mRNA expression in the cells. In addition to adipose and placental tissue, leptin transcript in M. lucifugus was detectable in heart, spleen, and liver, but not in lung, brain, and kidney. Hepatic expression was also observed in E. fuscus, but not in mice or rats, and did not appear to result from hepatic fat deposition. Leptin cDNA was cloned and sequenced from M. lucifugus placenta and shared up to 95% homology with other mammalian leptin cDNAs. It is concluded that 1) placental leptin expression and secretion are species-specific traits, 2) placental leptin production represents one of three major mechanisms for achieving high circulating maternal leptin levels during pregnancy, the others being upregulation of adipose leptin production and production of circulating leptin-binding proteins, and 3) hepatic leptin expression in pregnant insectivorous bats may be an adaptation resulting from the presence of extremely low amounts of subcutaneous fat during pregnancy and lactation in these species.

  • bats
  • adipose tissue
  • energy homeostasis
  • reproduction
  • placenta
View Full Text