Regulation of hippocampal synaptic function by the metabolic hormone, leptin: Implications for health and neurodegenerative disease

Gemma Mcgregor, Jenni Harvey (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)
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The role of the endocrine hormone leptin in controlling energy homeostasis in the hypothalamus are well documented. However the CNS targets for leptin are not restricted to the hypothalamus as a high density of leptin receptors are also expressed in several parts of the brain involved in higher cognitive functions including the hippocampus. Numerous studies have identified that in the hippocampus, leptin has cognitive enhancing actions as exogenous application of this hormone facilitates hippocampal-dependent learning and memory, whereas lack or insensitivity to leptin results in significant memory deficits. Leptin also markedly influences some of the main cellular changes that are involved in learning and memory including NMDA-receptor dependent synaptic plasticity and glutamate receptor trafficking. Like other metabolic hormones, there is a significant decline in neuronal sensitivity to leptin during the ageing process. Indeed, the capacity of leptin to modulate the functioning of hippocampal synapses is substantially reduced in aged compared to adult tissue. Clinical studies have also identified an association between circulating leptin levels and the risk of certain neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). In view of this, targeting leptin and/or its receptor/signaling mechanisms may be an innovative approach for developing therapies to treat AD. In support of this, accumulating evidence indicates that leptin has cognitive enhancing and neuroprotective actions in various models of AD. Here we assess recent evidence that supports an important regulatory role for leptin at hippocampal CA1 synapses, and we discuss how age-related alterations in this hormonal system influences neurodegenerative disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number340
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2018


  • leptin hippocampus
  • synaptic plasticity
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • amyloid


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