During lactation, female small mammals frequently reduce their fat reserves to very low levels. The function of this reduction is unclear, as calculations suggest that the contribution of the withdrawn energy from fat to the total energy balance of lactation is trivial. An alternative hypothesis is that reducing fat leads to a reduction in circulating adipokines, such as leptin, that play a role in stimulating the hyperphagia of lactation. We investigated the role of circulating leptin in lactation by repleting leptin levels using miniosmotic pumps during the last 7 days of lactation in Brandt's voles (Lasiopodomys brandtii), a model small wild mammal we have extensively studied in the context of lactation energy demands. Repletion of leptin resulted in a dose-dependent reduction of body mass and food intake in lactating voles. Comparisons to nonreproducing individuals suggests that the reduced leptin in lactation, due to reduced fat stores, may account for ∼16% of the lactational hyperphagia. Reduced leptin in lactation may, in part, cause lactational hyperphagia via stimulatory effects on hypothalamic orexigenic neuropeptides (neuropeptide Y and agouti-related peptide) and inhibition of the anorexigenic neuropeptide (proopiomelanocortin). These effects were reversed by the experimental repletion of leptin. There was no significant effect of leptin treatment on daily energy expenditure, milk production or pup growth, but leptin repletion did result in a reversal of the suppression of uncoupling protein-1 levels in brown adipose tissue, indicating an additional role for reducing body fat and leptin during peak lacation.
|Journal||American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Feb 2011|
Bibliographical noteWe thank Dr. Paula Redman and Peter Thomson for assistance with isotope analyses, and Xiu-Ping Wang for help in taking care of the animals. We are grateful to all the members in the Animal Physiological Ecology Group for discussion and their help during the experiment.
- Agouti-related peptide
- Neuropeptide Y
- Sustained energy intake
- Uncoupling protein-1