Leptin and Immune Function

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Initially described as an antiobesity hormone, lep-tin has subsequently been shown also to influence haematopoiesis, thermogenesis, reproduction, angiogenesis and immune response. Circulating levels of this adipocyte-derived hormone are proportional to fat mass, but may be lowered rapidly by fasting. Impaired cell-mediated immunity and reduced levels of leptin are both features of low body weight in humans. There is enough reported evidence to suggest a role for leptin in linking nutritional status to cognate cellular immune function, and to provide a molecular mechanism to account for the immune dysfunction observed in starvation [44]. The decrease in leptin plasma concentrations during food deprivation leads to impaired immune function, whereas the restoration of leptin to normal levels by feeding after starvation is sufficient to ameliorate the immune response and is followed by a significant increase in Th1 activity, supporting further the role of lep-tin as a nutritional sensor for the immune functions [45]. Therefore, leptin is the signal that connects the energy stores with the immune system, and may play a role in the immunosuppression of starvation. Leptin seems to be a signal for the adaptation of starvation, saving energy for muscle and brain activity [46]. Thus, leptin could be considered a link between nutritional status and the immune system [47].

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