Excess or loss of body fat can be associated with infertility, suggesting that adequate fat mass is essential for proper reproductive function. Leptin is an adipocyte-derived hormone that is involved in the regulation of food intake and energy expenditure, and its synthesis and secretion are markedly increased in obesity. Short-term administration of leptin accelerates the onset of puberty in normal mice and corrects the sterility of leptin-deficient ob/ob mice. These findings suggest a role for leptin as an endocrine signal between fat depots and the reproductive axis, but the effect of hyperleptinemia on the initiation and maintenance of reproductive function has not been elucidated. To address this issue, we examined the reproductive phenotypes of female transgenic skinny mice with elevated plasma leptin concentrations comparable to those in obese subjects. With no apparent adipose tissue, female transgenic skinny mice exhibit accelerated puberty and intact fertility at younger ages followed by successful delivery of healthy pups. However, at older ages, they develop hypothalamic hypogonadism characterized by prolonged menstrual cycles, atrophic ovary, reduced hypothalamic gonadotropin releasing hormone contents, and poor pituitary luteinizing hormone secretion. This study has demonstrated for the first time to our knowledge that accelerated puberty and late-onset hypothalamic hypogonadism are associated with chronic hyperleptinemia, thereby leading to a better understanding of the pathophysiological and therapeutic implication of leptin.
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