Leptin is a hormone predominantly made by adipose cells and enterocytes in the small intestine that helps to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger, which in turn diminishes fat storage in adipocytes. Leptin is coded for by the LEP gene. Leptin acts on cell receptors in the arcuate and ventromedial nuclei, as well as other parts of the hypothalamus and dopaminergic neurons of the ventral tegmental area, consequently mediating feeding.
Although regulation of fat stores is deemed to be the primary function of leptin, it also plays a role in other physiological processes, as evidenced by its many sites of synthesis other than fat cells, and the many cell types beyond hypothalamic cells that have leptin receptors. Many of these additional functions are yet to be fully defined.
In obesity, a decreased sensitivity to leptin occurs (similar to insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes), resulting in an inability to detect satiety despite high energy stores and high levels of leptin. A synonym for LEP is OB (for obese).
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