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DW Miller, PA Findlay, MA Morrison, N Raver, and CL Adam

The role of leptin in neuroendocrine appetite and reproductive regulation remains to be fully resolved. A series of three experiments was conducted using adequately nourished oestradiol-implanted castrated male sheep. In a cross-over design (n=6), responses to a single i.c.v. (third ventricle) injection of leptin (0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 mg ovine leptin (oLEP) and 1.0 mg murine leptin (mLEP)), N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA, 20 micro g) or 0.9% saline (control) were measured in terms of LH secretion (4 h post-injection compared with 4 h pre-injection) and appetite (during 2 h post-injection) in autumn (Experiment 1). NMDA and 1.0 mg oLEP treatments were repeated in the same sheep in the following spring (Experiment 2). With an additional 12 sheep (n=18 in cross-over design), responses to low-dose 'physiological' i.c.v. infusion of leptin (8 ng/h for 12 h daily for 4 days), insulin (0.7 ng/h) and artificial cerebrospinal fluid were measured in the next spring (Experiment 3). LH was studied over 8 h and appetite over 1 h on days 1 and 4 of infusion. In Experiment 1 (autumn), oLEP overall increased LH pulse frequency by up to 110% (P<0.05), decreased LH pulse amplitude (P<0.05) and decreased appetite (P<0.05). mLEP reduced LH pulse amplitude (P<0.05) without significant effect on appetite, while NMDA reduced appetite (P<0.05) but had no effect on LH. In Experiment 2 (spring), LH responses were 'surge-like' with highly significant increases in the moving average LH concentration after 1.0 mg oLEP (P<0.001) and after NMDA (P<0.001). Compared with similar analysis of experiment 1 results, the LH response in spring was greater than that in autumn for both 1.0 mg oLEP (P<0.05) and NMDA (P<0.005). Conversely, unlike in autumn (Experiment 1), there was no effect of 1.0 mg oLEP or NMDA on appetite in the spring (Experiment 2). In Experiment 3 (spring), 'physiological' i.c.v. infusion of oLEP or insulin increased LH pulse frequency by up to 100% (P<0.001) compared with the control infusion on both days 1 and 4, but there were no effects on appetite. These results indicate that intracerebral leptin both stimulates reproductive neuroendocrine output and decreases appetite in adequately nourished sheep. However, the responses of these two axes were dose-dependent and differentially affected by the time of year, suggesting dissociation of the neural pathways involved.