Leptin in horses: Tissue localization and relationship between peripheral concentrations of leptin and body condition
Obesity has been a major concern in the horse industry for many years, and the recent discovery of leptin and leptin receptors in numerous nonequine species has provided a basis for new approaches to study this problem in equine. The objectives were to: 1) clone a partial sequence of the equine leptin and leptin receptor genes so as to enable the design of primers for RT-PCR determination of leptin and leptin receptor gene presence and distribution in tissues, 2) develop a radioimmunoassay to quantify peripheral concentrations of leptin in equine, 3) determine if peripheral concentrations of leptin correlate with body condition scores in equine, and 4) determine if changing body condition scores would influence peripheral concentrations of leptin in equine. In Experiment 1, equine leptin (GenBank accession number AF179275) and the long-form of the equine leptin receptor (GenBank accession number AF139663) genes were partially sequenced. Equine leptin receptor mRNA was detected in liver, lung, testis, ovary, choroid plexus, hypothalamus, and subcutaneous adipose tissues using RT-PCR. In Experiment 2, 71 horses were categorized by gender, age, and body condition score and blood samples were collected. Sera were assayed for leptin using a heterologous leptin radioimmunoassay developed for equine sera. Serum concentrations of leptin increased in horses with body condition score (1 = thin to 9 = fat; r = 0.64; P = 0.0001). Furthermore, serum concentrations of leptin were greater in geldings and stallions than in mares (P = 0.0002), and tended to increase with age of the animal (P = 0.08). In Experiment 3, blood samples, body weights, and body condition scores were collected every 14 d from 18 pony mares assigned to gain or lose weight over a 14-wk interval based on initial body condition score. Although statistical changes (P = 0.001) in body condition scores were achieved, congruent statistical changes in peripheral concentrations of leptin were not observed, likely due to the small range of change that occurred. Nonetheless, serum concentrations of leptin tended to be greater in fat-restricted mares than in thin-supplemented mares (P = 0.09). We conclude that leptin and leptin receptors are present in equine tissues and that peripheral concentrations of leptin reflect a significant influence of fat mass in equine.