Leptin is a hormone produced by the adipose tissue that acts in the brain, stimulating white fat breakdown.
Researchers find that the lipolytic effect of leptin is mediated through the action of sympathetic nerve fibers that innervate the adipose tissue.
Authors in the journal Cell observe that sympathetic nerve fibers establish neuro-adipose junctions, directly “enveloping” adipocytes. Local optogenetic stimulation of sympathetic inputs induces a local lipolytic response and depletion of white adipose mass.
Conversely, genetic ablation of sympathetic inputs onto fat pads blocks leptin-stimulated phosphorylation of hormone-sensitive lipase and consequent lipolysis, as do knockouts of dopamine β-hydroxylase, an enzyme required for catecholamine synthesis.
Thus, neuro-adipose junctions are necessary and sufficient for the induction of lipolysis in white adipose tissue and are an efferent effector of leptin action. Direct activation of sympathetic inputs to adipose tissues may represent an alternative approach to induce fat loss, circumventing central leptin resistance.