Leptin has been shown to stimulate the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis in fasting rodents; however, its role in thyroid axis regulation under physiological conditions is still under investigation. Here it was investigated in freely fed rats whether leptin modulates thyrotroph function in vivo and whether leptin has direct pituitary effects on TSH release. Since leptin is produced in the pituitary, the possibility was also investigated that leptin may be a local regulator of TSH release. TSH was measured by specific RIA. Freely fed adult rats 2 h after being injected with a single s.c. injection of 8 microg leptin/100 g body weight showed a 2-fold increase in serum TSH (P<0.05). Hemi-pituitary explants incubated with 10(-9) and 10(-7) M leptin for 2 h showed a reduced TSH release of 40 and 50% respectively (P<0.05). Conversely, incubation of hemi-pituitary explants with antiserum against leptin, aiming to block the action of locally produced leptin, resulted in higher TSH release (45%, P<0.05). In conclusion, also in the fed state, leptin has an acute stimulatory effect on TSH release in vivo, acting probably at the hypothalamus. However, the direct pituitary effect of leptin is inhibitory and data also provide evidence that in the rat pituitary leptin may act as an autocrine/paracrine inhibitor of TSH release.
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