The increasing incidence of obesity in developed nations represents an ever-growing challenge to health care by promoting diabetes and other diseases. The discovery of the hormone, leptin, a decade ago has facilitated the acquisition of new knowledge regarding the regulation of energy balance. A great deal remains to be discovered regarding the molecular and anatomic actions of leptin, however. Here, we discuss the mechanisms by which leptin activates intracellular signals, the roles that these signals play in leptin action in vivo, and sites of leptin action in vivo. Using "reporter" mice, in which LRb-expressing (long form of the leptin receptor) neurons express the histological marker, beta-galactosidase, coupled with the detection of LRb-mediated signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 signaling events, we identified LRb expression in neuronal populations both within and outside the hypothalamus. Understanding the regulation and physiological function of these myriad sites of central leptin action will be a crucial next step in the quest to understand mechanisms of leptin action and energy balance.
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