Leptin (LEP, OB, OBS), a circulating adipokine, and its receptor LEPR (DB, OBR) control food intake and energy balance and are implicated in obesity-related diseases (recently reviewed in Amitani et al. 2013, Dunmore and Brown 2013, Cottrell and Mercer 2012, La Cava 2012, Marroqui et al. 2012, Paz-Filho et al. 2012, Denver et al. 2011, Lee 2011, Marino et al. 2011, Morton and Schwartz 2011, Scherer and Buettner 2011, Shan and Yeo 2011, Wauman and Tavernier 2011, Dardeno et al. 2010, Bjorbaek 2009, Morris and Rui 2009, Myers et al. 2008), including cancer (Guo et al. 2012), inflammation (Newman and Gonzalez-Perez 2013, Iikuni et al. 2008), and angiogenesis (Gonzalez-Perez et al. 2013).
The identification of spontaneous mutations in the leptin gene (ob or LEP) and the leptin receptor gene (Ob-R, db or LEPR) genes in mice opened up a new field in obesity research. Leptin was discovered as the product of the gene affected by the ob (obesity) mutation, which causes obesity in mice. Likewise LEPR is the product of the gene affected by the db (diabetic) mutation. Leptin binding to LEPR induces canonical (JAK2/STATs; MAPK/ERK 1/2, PI-3K/AKT) and non-canonical signaling pathways (PKC, JNK, p38 MAPK and AMPK) in diverse cell types. The binding of leptin to the long isoform of LEPR (OB-Rl) initiates a phosphorylation cascade that results in transcriptional activation of target genes by STAT5 and STAT3 and activation of the PI3K pathway(not shown here), the MAPK/ERK pathway, and the mTOR/S6K pathway. Shorter LEPR isoforms with truncated intracellular domains are unable to activate the STAT pathway, but can transduce signals by way of activation of JAK2, IRS-1 or ERKs, including MAPKs.
LEPR is constitutively bound to the JAK2 kinase. Binding of LEP to LEPR causes a conformational change in LEPR that activates JAK2 autophosphorylation followed by phosphorylation of LEPR by JAK2. Phosphorylated LEPR binds STAT3, STAT5, and SHP2 which are then phosphorylated by JAK2. Phosphorylated JAK2 binds SH2B1 which then binds IRS1/2, resulting in phosphorylation of IRS1/2 by JAK2. Phosphorylated STAT3 and STAT5 dimerize and translocate to the nucleus where they activate transcription of target genes (Jovanovic et al. 2010). SHP2 activates the MAPK pathway. IRS1/2 activate the PI3K/AKT pathway which may be the activator of mTOR/S6K.
Several isoforms of LEPR have been identified (reviewed in Gorska et al. 2010). The long isoform (LEPRb, OBRb) is expressed in the hypothalamus and all types of immune cells. It is the only isoform known to fully activate signaling pathways in response to leptin. Shorter isoforms (LEPRa, LEPRc, LEPRd, and a soluble isoform LEPRe) are able to interact with JAK kinases and activate other pathways, however their roles in energy homeostasis are not fully characterized.