The aim of this study was to investigate the regulation of leptin expression and production in cultured human adipocytes using the model of in vitro differentiated human adipocytes. Freshly isolated human preadipocytes did not exhibit significant leptin mRNA and protein levels as assessed by reverse transcriptase (RT)-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and radioimmunoassay (RIA). However, during differentiation induced by a defined adipogenic serum-free medium, cellular leptin mRNA and leptin protein released into the medium increased considerably in accordance with the cellular lipid accumulation. In fully differentiated human fat cells, insulin provoked a dose-dependent rise in leptin protein. Cortisol at a near physiological concentration of 10−8 mol/l was found to potentiate this insulin effect by almost threefold. Removal of insulin and cortisol, respectively, was followed by a rapid decrease in leptin expression, which was reversible after readdition of the hormones. These results clearly indicate that both insulin and cortisol are potent and possibly physiological regulators of leptin expression in human adipose tissue.

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