Leptin: Master regulator of biological functions that affects breathing

Estelle B. Gauda, Silvia Conde, Mirian Bassi, Daniel B. Zoccal, Debora Simoes Almeida Colombari, Eduardo Colombari, Nikola Despotovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Obesity is a global epidemic in developed countries accounting for many of the metabolic and cardiorespiratory morbidities that occur in adults. These morbidities include type 2 diabetes, sleepdisordered breathing (SDB), obstructive sleep apnea, chronic intermittent hypoxia, and hypertension. Leptin, produced by adipocytes, is a master regulator of metabolism and of many other biological functions including central and peripheral circuits that control breathing. By binding to receptors on cells and neurons in the brainstem, hypothalamus, and carotid body, leptin links energy and metabolism to breathing. In this comprehensive article, we review the central and peripheral locations of leptin’s actions that affect cardiorespiratory responses during health and disease, with a particular focus on obesity, SDB, and its effects during early development. Obesityinduced hyperleptinemia is associated with centrally mediated hypoventilation with decrease CO2 sensitivity. On the other hand, hyperleptinemia augments peripheral chemoreflexes to hypoxia and induces sympathoexcitation. Thus, “leptin resistance” in obesity is relative. We delineate the circuits responsible for these divergent effects, including signaling pathways. We review the unique effects of leptin during development on organogenesis, feeding behavior, and cardiorespiratory responses, and how undernutrition and overnutrition during critical periods of development can lead to cardiorespiratory comorbidities in adulthood. We conclude with suggestions for future directions to improve our understanding of leptin dysregulation and associated clinical diseases and possible therapeutic targets. Lastly, we briefly discuss the yin and the yang, specifically the contribution of relative adiponectin deficiency in adults with hyperleptinemia to the development of metabolic and cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1047-1083
Number of pages37
JournalComprehensive Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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