Leptin, which is secreted by adipocytes, the placenta and the stomach, not only controls appetite through leptin receptors in the hypothalamus but also regulates cell-mediated immunity. In this study we have demonstrated that continuous injection of leptin prevents the reduction in lymphocyte numbers normally observed in fasted and steroid-injected mice. Consistent with leptin-induced protection, we observed up-regulation of the bcl-xL gene as a result of signal transduction via leptin receptors on lymphocytes. We suggest that leptin might contribute to the recovery of immune suppression in malnourished mice by inhibiting lymphocyte apoptosis.
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