During lactation, hypothalamic levels of neuropeptide Y (NPY) and agouti related protein (AGRP) mRNA are increased, while pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) mRNA is decreased. Serum leptin levels are also decreased during lactation. These changes may underlie the large increases of both food and water intake that occur in concert with milk production. However, additional hypothalamic substances, such as the novel peptide, orexin, may be involved. In addition, in the presence of chronically suppressed levels of serum leptin, there may be a change in leptin receptor expression in the hypothalamus. The objectives of the present study were to determine if orexin and leptin receptor mRNA levels were changed during lactation. Rats were studied on dioestrus of the oestrous cycle or on day 10 postpartum (the lactating animals were suckling eight pups). Orexin mRNA levels in the lateral hypothalamus did not differ between dioestrus and lactation. There was a significant increase in leptin receptor mRNA levels in the supraoptic nucleus during lactation compared to dioestrus. Furthermore, leptin receptor protein, as determined by immunocytochemistry, was colocalized in virtually all vasopressin and oxytocin cells in the supraoptic nucleus. Lactating animals exhibited a decrease in leptin receptor mRNA in the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus whereas no change was apparent in other hypothalamic areas compared to the dioestrus animals. These results demonstrate that changes in orexin do not appear to contribute to the increase in food intake during lactation. It is likely that the increases in NPY and ARGP, coupled with the decrease in POMC, are primarily responsible for sustaining the chronic hyperphagia of lactation. The changes observed in leptin receptor expression in the hypothalamus, along with the suppression of serum leptin levels, also suggest that the leptin signalling system may play a significant role in the regulation of food and water intake during lactation.
- Leptin receptor
ASJC Scopus subject areas