Agouti-related peptide plays a critical role in leptin's effects on female puberty and reproduction

Sharone Sheffer-Babila, Yan Sun, Davelene D. Israel, Shun Mei Liu, Genevieve Neal-Perry, Streamson C. Chua

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Deficient leptin signaling causes infertility via reduced activity of GnRH neurons, causing a hypogonadal state in both rodents and humans. Because GnRH neurons do not express leptin receptors, leptin's effect on GnRH neurons must be indirect. Neurons within the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus that coexpress AGRP and NPY are considered to be important intermediate neurons involved in leptin regulation of GnRH neurons. Previously, we reported that the absence of AGRP and haploinsufficiency of MC4R in leptin receptor mutant (Leprdb/db) females result in restoration of fertility and lactation despite the persistence of obesity and insulin resistance. The overarching hypothesis in the present study is that the absence or reduction of leptin's inhibition of AGRP/NPY neurons leads to suppression of GnRH release in cases of leptin signaling deficiency. Since TAC2 (NKB)-TAC3R signaling plays a role in puberty maturation and is modulated by metabolic status, the other aim of this study is to test whether TAC2/NKB neurons in ARC regulated by melanocortinergic signals herein affect leptin's action on puberty and reproduction. Our data showed that AGRP deficiency in Leprdb/db females restores normal timing of vaginal opening and estrous cycling, although uterine weight gain and mammary gland development are morphologically delayed. Nonetheless, Agrp-/- Leprdb/db females are fertile and sustain adequate nutrition of pups with lactation to weaning age. AGRP deficiency results in advanced vaginal opening in wild-type female mice. The postpubertal increase in hypothalamic TAC2 mRNA was not observed in Leprdb/db females, whereas AGRP deficiency restored it in Leprdb/db females. Additionally, MC4R activation with MTII induced FOS expression in TAC2 neurons, supporting the concept of melanocortinergic regulation of TAC2 neurons. These studies suggest that AGRP imposes an inhibitory effect on puberty and that TAC2 neurons may transmit melanocortinergic inhibition of GnRH neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1512-E1520
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 15 2013


  • Agouti-related peptide
  • Leptin
  • Puberty
  • Reproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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