Regulation of leptin synthesis and secretion before birth: Implications for the early programming of adult obesity

I. Caroline McMillen, L. J. Edwards, J. Duffield, B. S. Muhlhausler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

79 Citations (Scopus)


A series of epidemiological, clinical and experimental studies have shown that there are associations between the fetal and neonatal nutritional environment and the amount and distribution of adipose tissue in adult life. This review considers the evidence for these relationships and discusses the potential impact of the prenatal nutritional experience on the development of the endocrine and neuroendocrine systems that regulate energy balance, with a particular emphasis on the role of the adipocyte-derived hormone, leptin. In the rodent, leptin derived from the mother may exert an important influence on the development of the appetite regulatory neural network and on the subsequent regulation of leptin synthesis and the risk for obesity in the offspring. In species such as the human and sheep, there is also recent evidence that the synthesis and secretion of adipocyte-derived hormones, such as leptin, are regulated in fetal life. Furthermore, the hypothalamic neuropeptides that regulate energy intake and expenditure in adult life are also present within the fetal brain and may be regulated by the prevailing level of maternal and hence fetal nutrient and hormonal signals, including leptin. This work is important in determining those initiating mechanisms within the 'fat-brain' axis in early life that precede the development of adult obesity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-427
Number of pages13
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Embryology
  • Endocrinology
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Cell Biology

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