Leptin, a small peptide produced by adipocytes, is implicated in an increasing number of endocrine regulations, including adiposity, satiety, puberty, and fertility. Although the factors involved in controlling maternal and fetal weight gain during pregnancy have not been fully elucidated, leptin has recently emerged as such a potential factor. In our study, we report the presence of high amounts of leptin mRNA and immunoreactive protein in the human placenta, establishing the placental synthesis of this hormone. A large (three- to fivefold) augmentation in leptin mRNA and protein was found in placentas from insulin-treated diabetic women. This finding was associated with increased concentrations of leptin and insulin in venous cord blood without modification of maternal circulating leptin levels. These data provide evidence that the placenta is a site for regulated leptin production in utero. Insulin is likely to play a critical role in this regulation, thus emphasizing the importance of placental leptin signaling in diabetic pregnancy.

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