Objective: Leptin is a cytokine produced by adipose tissue that acts mainly on the hypothalamus to regulate appetite and energy homeostasis. Previous studies revealed that the leptin receptor is expressed not only in neurons, but also in glial cells. Microglia are resident immune cells in the brain that play an essential role in immune defense and neural network development. Previously we reported that microglial morphology and cytokine production are changed in the leptin receptor deficient db/db mouse, suggesting that leptin's central effects on metabolic control might involve signaling through microglia. In the current study, we aimed to uncover the role of leptin signaling in microglia in systemic metabolic control. Methods: We generated a mouse model with leptin receptor deficiency, specifically in the myeloid cells, to determine the role of microglial leptin signaling in the development of metabolic disease and to investigate microglial functions. Results: We discovered that these mice have increased body weight with hyperphagia. In the hypothalamus, pro-opiomelanocortin neuron numbers in the arcuate nucleus (ARC) and α-MSH projections from the ARC to the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) decreased, which was accompanied by the presence of less ramified microglia with impaired phagocytic capacity in the PVN. Conclusions: Myeloid cell leptin receptor deficient mice partially replicate the db/db phenotype. Leptin signaling in hypothalamic microglia is important for microglial function and a correct formation of the hypothalamic neuronal circuit regulating metabolism.
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