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Y Zhang, JT Wilsey, CD Frase, MM Matheny, BS Bender, S Zolotukhin, and PJ Scarpace

Leptin is a peripheral immunoenhancing reagent that directly activates splenic lymphocytes in mice. We found that a 48 h fast in rats resulted in a decrease in serum leptin that was accompanied by a lower delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) response. Peripheral leptin replacement completely restored this response in fasted animals. We employed a recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) system to deliver leptin gene directly into rat brain to assess the effect of sustained long-term central expression of leptin on immune responses. The rAAV-leptin rats had elevated central leptin over the 60 day duration of the experiment, whereas body fat and circulating leptin fell to near zero levels. The DTH response was significantly reduced by 10-20% in rats receiving rAAV-leptin compared with the control rats, and the difference was maintained for over 50 h. When the rats undergoing rAAV-leptin gene therapy were given either murine recombinant leptin or PBS s.c., rats receiving leptin had a 17% higher DTH response than rats receiving PBS. The isolated splenocytes from the former group also proliferated 34% more in vitro in response to the mitogen concanavalin A as compared with the latter group. These results suggest that peripheral leptin has a dominant role in maintaining T-cell-mediated immune responses in rats, and central leptin is unable to compensate for the immunosuppression associated with peripheral hypoleptinemia. Furthermore, preservation of normal cell-mediated immune responses does not require fat tissue as along as serum leptin levels are maintained.