The effects of the adipocyte-derived hormone leptin on glucose metabolism in hepatocytes were investigated. Incubation of hepatocytes from Wistar rats with leptin for 16 h caused a dose-dependent increase in incorporation of [14C]glucose into glycogen, with a maximal effect at 30 nmol/l leptin. This effect of leptin was observed over a range of glucose concentrations (10-25 mmol/l) and was associated with stimulation of net glycogen deposition. It was not counteracted by mercaptopicolinate, an inhibitor of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase, indicating that it is not due to increased gluconeogenic flux. Leptin also enhanced the short-term stimulation of glycogen synthesis by insulin. These effects of leptin were associated with inhibition of phosphorylase a, which occurred after 4 h of exposure to leptin. Culture with leptin for 16 h did not affect the activities of glucose-6-phosphatase or glucokinase or the activation state of glycogen synthase. Leptin did not affect glycolysis determined from the detritiation of [3-(3)H]glucose. The inhibitory effects of leptin on phosphorylase a were counteracted by short-term incubation with glucagon but were additive with the inhibitory effects of insulin and also with the inhibition caused by resorcinol (25 pmol/l), which inhibits phosphorylase kinase by a mechanism analogous to the antidiabetic drug proglycosyn. These results show that leptin has additive effects with insulin in inhibiting phosphorylase and stimulating glycogen storage in hepatocytes, indicating that these hormones act by separate but convergent mechanisms. It is concluded that the primary action of leptin in hepatocytes is to enhance glycogen storage. This may be an important compensatory mechanism for the inhibition of insulin secretion.

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