Involvement of leptin in the molecular physiology of the placenta
Leptin is a homeostatic regulator in the placenta where it promotes proliferation, protein synthesis and the expression of tolerogenic maternal response molecules such as HLA-G. Leptin also exerts an anti-apoptotic action in placenta controlling the expression of p53 master cell cycle regulator under different stress conditions. On the other hand, leptin is an integrative target of different placental stimuli. The expression of leptin in placenta is regulated by hCG, insulin, steroids, hypoxia and many other growth hormones, suggesting that it might have an important endocrine function in the trophoblastic cells. The leptin expression is induced involving the cAMP/PKA or cAMP/Epac pathways which have profound actions upon human trophoblast function. The activation of PI3K and MAPK pathways also participates in the leptin expression. Estrogens play a central role during pregnancy, particularly 17β-estradiol upregulates the leptin expression in placental cells through genomic and non-genomic actions. The leptin promoter analysis reveals specific elements that are active in placental cells. The transcription factors CREB, AP1, Sp1, NFB and the coactivator CBP are involved in the placental leptin expression. Moreover, placental leptin promoter is a target of epigenetic marks such as DNA methylation and histone acetylation that regulates not only the leptin expression in placenta during pregnancy but also determines the predisposition of acquiring adult metabolism diseases. Taken together, all these results allow a better understanding of leptin function and regulatory mechanisms of leptin expression in human placental trophoblasts, and support the importance of leptin during pregnancy and in programming adult health.
Source: The journal of Reproductive Science