Brown adipose tissue (BAT) has the capacity for uncoupled mitochondrial respiration and is proposed to be a key site for regulating energy expenditure in rodents. To better define the role of BAT in energy homeostasis, we previously created a line of transgenic mice with deficiency of BAT (UCP promoter-driven diphtheria toxin A transgenic mice [UCP-DTA]) mice. These mice develop obesity that initially is due to decreased energy expenditure and later accompanied by hyperphagia despite increased levels of circulating leptin. In addition, the obesity of these mice is accompanied by severe insulin-resistant diabetes and hyperlipidemia. To better define the basis for leptin resistance in this model, we treated UCP-DTA mice with leptin (300 ug i.p., b.i.d.) and compared their response with that of leptin-treated ob/ob and FVB control mice (30 μg i.p., b.i.d.). Leptin treatment of FVB and ob/ob mice decreased their body weight and food intake and improved their glucose homeostasis. In contrast, tenfold higher dosages of leptin had no effect on body weight, food intake, or circulating insulin or glucose concentrations of UCP-DTA mice. Hypothalamic neuropeptide Y (NPY) mRNA expression was lower in UCP-DTA mice than in littermate control FVB mice in the fed state, and increased progressively in response to food restriction as leptin levels fell. In parallel to the levels of hypothalamic NPY, corticosterone levels were initially suppressed and rose with food restriction. Thus food intake, body weight, and insulin and glucose homeostasis of UCP-DTA mice are all extraordinarily resistant to leptin, whereas hypothalamic NPY and the hypothalamopituitary adrenal (HPA) axis may remain under leptin control. Further elucidation of the mechanisms underlying leptin resistance in UCP-DTA mice may provide valuable insights into the basis for leptin resistance in human obesity.

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