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Protective effects of leptin during the suckling period against later obesity may be associated with changes in promoter methylation of the hypothalamic pro-opiomelanocortin gene

Palou, M.; Picó, Catalina; McKay, J. A.; Sánchez, J.; Priego, T.; Mathers, J. C.; Palou, A.

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PMID: 21554805


Leptin supplementation of neonatal rats during the suckling period protects against being overweight in adulthood and ameliorates the control of food intake. This was associated with changes in the expression of hypothalamic genes involved in the central action of leptin: pro-opiomelanocortin (Pomc), leptin receptor (Lepr) and suppressor of cytokine signalling (Socs3). The purpose of the present study was to determine the methylation status within the promoter regions of these genes and to assess whether the observed changes in the expression levels of these genes could be explained by changes in their methylation status. Male rats were treated daily with an oral physiological dose of leptin or vehicle during the suckling period. After weaning, animals were fed with a normal-fat or a high-fat (HF) diet until aged 6 months. DNA was extracted from the hypothalamus and methylation within the promoter regions of the gene panel was measured by pyrosequencing. Pomc promoter methylation increased in control animals fed the HF diet but decreased in leptin-treated animals. In addition, there was a weak negative correlation between DNA methylation and POMC mRNA levels (P = 0·075). There were no changes in the methylation status of the CpG sites studied within the promoter regions of Lepr and Socs3 in response to leptin or HF treatments. This is the first demonstration that leptin treatment during lactation may programme methylation of an appetite-related gene in the hypothalamus of animals fed HF diets, with possible implications for gene expression and protection against the development of obesity.

Automatic Tags

Obesity; Rats; Leptin; DNA Methylation; Promoter Regions, Genetic; Pro-Opiomelanocortin; Animals, Suckling

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