Central leptin administration can ameliorate hyperglycemia in insulin-deficient rodent models independently of insulin; however, the underlying neuronal mechanism are unclear. Here, we investigate the contribution of key elements within the central melanocortin system by examining whether central leptin injection can ameliorate hyperglycemia in total insulin-deficient mice that either lacked melanocortin 4 receptors (MC4Rs) in the whole body [knockout (KO); MC4R KO] or selectively, in single-minded homolog 1 (SIM1)-expressing neurons (SIM1 γ "MC4R). We further investigated the contribution of leptin receptors (LEPRs) in agouti-related protein (AgRP)-expressing neurons (AgRP δLEPR). Leptin injections into the cerebral ventricle attenuated mortality and elevated blood glucose in total insulin-deficient MC4R KO mice. Total insulin-deficient SIM1 γ "MC4R mice exhibited the same magnitude reduction of blood glucose in response to leptin injections as MC4R KO mice, suggesting SIM1 neurons are key to MC4R-mediated, insulin-independent, glucose-lowering effects of leptin. Central leptin injection also partially rescued glucose levels in total insulin-deficient AgRP δLEPR mice. In brain slice studies, basal discharge of AgRP neurons from mice with total insulin deficiency was increased and leptin partially reduced their firing rate without membrane potential hyperpolarization. Collectively, our findings indicate that, contrary to glucose-lowering effects of leptin in the presence of insulin or partial insulin deficiency, MC4Rs in SIM1 neurons and LEPRs in AgRP neurons are not solely responsible for glucose-lowering effects of leptin in total insulin deficiency. This indicates that the central melanocortin system operates with other neuronal systems to fully mediate glucose-lowering effects of leptin in an insulin-independent manner.
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