Hyperinsulinemia is associated with an overexpression of mRNA for the ob protein leptin in rodent models of genetic obesity, and insulin has been reported to directly stimulate leptin mRNA in rat adipocytes. Human obesity is also associated with increased leptin mRNA as well as plasma levels, but there have been no reports of the effect of insulin on leptin secretion. We, therefore, tested the hypothesis that insulin stimulates leptin secretion in humans. Using a newly developed leptin assay, immunoreactive leptin was measured in fasting and postprandial plasma samples from 27 healthy adults and in samples before and during euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic then stepped hypoglycemic (hourly steps at 85, 75, 65, 55, and 45 mg/dl) clamps from 10 healthy subjects and 11 patients with IDDM. Plasma leptin was correlated (r = 0.84, P = 0.0005) with BMI in obese but not nonobese subjects and with fasting (r = 0.75, P = 0.008) but not postprandial plasma insulin levels. (Leptin levels did not change postprandially.) Euglycemic hyperinsulinemia did not alter leptin levels, nor did hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia. Thus, because circulating leptin levels are not increased during postprandial hyperinsulinemia or during euglycemic (or hypoglycemic) hyperinsulinemia, we conclude that, at least in the short term, insulin does not increase leptin secretion in humans and that hyperleptinemia in obese individuals is not likely the result of hyperinsulinemia.

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