Leptin, a hormone secreted by adipose tissue in proportion to body adiposity, is proposed to be involved in the central nervous regulation of food intake and body weight. In addition, evidence is emerging that leptin regulates neuroendocrine and metabolic functions as well, presumably via its action in the central nervous system (CNS). To investigate this regulatory effect of leptin, we infused 3.5 μg of human leptin directly into the third cerebral ventricle (i3vt) of lean male Long-Evans rats, 90 min before the onset of their dark phase. Before and after infusion, blood samples were withdrawn through indwelling catheters for assessment of hormonal (plasma corticosterone, insulin, leptin), autonomic (plasma norepinephrine, epinephrine), and metabolic (plasma glucose) parameters. 13vt leptin caused an increase in plasma corticosterone and plasma leptin levels relative to the control condition. The effects of i3vt leptin on corticosterone secretion became particularly apparent after the onset of the dark phase. The results of the present study indicate that i3vt leptin stimulates the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, particularly when rats normally encounter their largest meals. These results are consistent with the possibility that high circulating leptin levels may underlie the increased activity of the HPA axis that is generally characteristic of human obesity and most animal models of obesity.

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