Leptin is a key regulator of glucose metabolism in mammals, but the mechanisms of its action have remained elusive. We now show that signaling by extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK) and its upstream kinase MEK in the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) mediates the leptin-induced increase in glucose utilization as well as its insulin sensitivity in the whole body and in red-type skeletal muscle of mice through activation of the melanocortin receptor (MCR) in the VMH. In contrast, activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3), but not the MEK-ERK pathway, in the VMH by leptin enhances the insulin-induced suppression of endogenous glucose production in an MCR-independent manner, with this effect of leptin occurring only in the presence of an increased plasma concentration of insulin. Given that leptin requires 6 h to increase muscle glucose uptake, the transient activation of the MEK-ERK pathway in the VMH by leptin may play a role in the induction of synaptic plasticity in the VMH, resulting in the enhancement of MCR signaling in the nucleus and leading to an increase in insulin sensitivity in red-type muscle.
This article contains Supplementary Data online at http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.2337/db12-1629/-/DC1.
- Received November 24, 2012.
- Accepted March 16, 2013.
- © 2013 by the American Diabetes Association.
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