Leptin as a modulator of sweet taste sensitivities in mice


The National Academy of Sciences


Leptin acts as a potent inhibitory factor against obesity by regulating energy expenditure, food intake, and adiposity. The obese diabetic db/db mouse, which has defects in leptin receptor, displays enhanced neural responses and elevated behavioral preference to sweet stimuli. Here, we show the effects of leptin on the peripheral taste system. An administration of leptin into lean mice suppressed responses of peripheral taste nerves (chorda tympani and glossopharyngeal) to sweet substances (sucrose and saccharin) without affecting responses to sour, salty, and bitter substances. Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings of activities of taste receptor cells isolated from circumvallate papillae (innervated by the glossopharyngeal nerve) demonstrated that leptin activated outward K+ currents, which resulted in hyperpolarization of taste cells. The db/db mouse with impaired leptin receptors showed no such leptin suppression. Taste tissue (circumvallate papilla) of lean mice expressed leptin-receptor mRNA and some of the taste cells exhibited immunoreactivities to antibodies of the leptin receptor. Taken together, these observations suggest that the taste organ is a peripheral target for leptin, and that leptin may be a sweet-sensing modulator (suppressor) that may take part in regulation of food intake. Defects in this leptin suppression system in db/db mice may lead to their enhanced peripheral neural responses and enhanced behavioral preferences for sweet substances.

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