Impaired Leptin Gene Expression and Release in Cultured Preadipocytes Isolated From Individuals Born With Low Birth Weight

  1. Allan Vaag1,2
  1. 1Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. 2Steno Diabetes Center A/S, Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. 3Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  4. 4Biopharmaceutical Research Unit, Novo Nordisk A/S, Copenhagen, Denmark
  5. 5Centre of Inflammation and Metabolism, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark
  6. 6The August Krogh Centre, Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
  1. Corresponding author: Ninna S. Schultz, ninna.s.schultz{at}


Low birth weight (LBW) is associated with increased risk of the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D). The appetite-regulating hormone leptin is released from mature adipocytes, and its production may be decreased in immature preadipocytes from LBW individuals. We recruited 14 men born with LBW and 13 controls born with normal birth weight (NBW). Biopsy samples were obtained from subcutaneous abdominal fat depots, and preadipocytes were isolated and cultured. Gene expression of leptin and selected differentiation markers were analyzed during preadipocyte differentiation, and cell culture media were collected to analyze leptin secretion. DNA methylation of CpG sites in the leptin promoter was measured using pyrosequencing. We found that differentiating preadipocytes from LBW individuals showed reduced leptin gene expression and a corresponding reduced leptin release compared with NBW individuals. Mean DNA methylation of the proximal LEP promoter was increased in LBW compared with NBW individuals. The notion of impaired adipocyte maturation in LBW individuals was supported by a lower mRNA expression of the differentiation markers; fatty acid binding protein 4, peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor γ, and GLUT4. Our findings are consistent with impaired preadipocyte maturation, contributing to an increased risk of the development of T2D in LBW subjects.


  • Received April 20, 2013.
  • Accepted September 19, 2013.

Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered. See for details.

| Table of Contents

This Article

  1. Diabetes vol. 63 no. 1 111-121
  1. Supplementary Data
  2. All Versions of this Article:
    1. db13-0621v1
    2. 63/1/111 most recent