Leptin resistance and obesity have been related to mutations of the leptin receptor gene in rodents and, recently, in a consanguineous family. The latter mutation results in a receptor lacking transmembrane and intracellular domains. Homozygous and heterozygous individuals with this mutation had serum leptin levels higher than expected, given their BMIs: 600, 670, and 526 ng/ml and 145, 362, 294, 240, and 212 ng/ml, respectively. Their serum leptin was fractionated by gel filtration: >80% was present as a high-molecular size complex vs. 7.5% in the nonmutated sister. Western blot analysis showed a band at 146 kDa reacting specifically with an antibody directed against the leptin receptor ectodomain. In 10 obese control subjects, as in the mutated patients, free leptin levels correlated with BMI (r = 0.70, P = 0.0011) and reflected fat mass, regardless of leptin receptor functioning. In the patients, bound leptin levels correlated with BMI (r = 0.99, P = 0.0002) and were related to the number of mutated alleles. These data demonstrate that the truncated receptor is secreted into blood and binds the majority of serum leptin, markedly increasing bound and total leptin. Free serum leptin was similarly correlated with BMI in the mutated and nonmutated obese individuals, providing evidence that the relationship between BMI and circulating free leptin is preserved in this family. This finding suggests that the leptin receptor itself may not be specifically involved in the control of leptin secretion, and it supports the concept of relative resistance to leptin in common obesity.

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