BACKGROUND. Recombinant leptin (metreleptin) ameliorates hyperphagia and metabolic abnormalities in leptin-deficient humans with lipodystrophy. We aimed to determine whether metreleptin improves glucose and lipid metabolism in humans when food intake is held constant. METHODS. Patients with lipodystrophy were hospitalized for 19 days, with food intake held constant by a controlled diet in an inpatient metabolic ward. In a nonrandomized, crossover design, patients previously treated with metreleptin (n = 8) were continued on metreleptin for 5 days and then taken off metreleptin for the next 14 days (withdrawal cohort). This order was reversed in metreleptin-naive patients (n = 14), who were reevaluated after 6 months of metreleptin treatment on an ad libitum diet (initiation cohort). Outcome measurements included insulin sensitivity by hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp, fasting glucose and triglyceride levels, lipolysis measured using isotopic tracers, and liver fat by magnetic resonance spectroscopy. RESULTS. With food intake constant, peripheral insulin sensitivity decreased by 41% after stopping metreleptin for 14 days (withdrawal cohort) and increased by 32% after treatment with metreleptin for 14 days (initiation cohort). In the initiation cohort only, metreleptin decreased fasting glucose by 11% and triglycerides by 41% and increased hepatic insulin sensitivity. Liver fat decreased from 21.8% to 18.7%. In the initiation cohort, changes in lipolysis were not independent of food intake, but after 6 months of metreleptin treatment on an ad libitum diet, lipolysis decreased by 30% (palmitate turnover) to 35% (glycerol turnover). CONCLUSION. Using lipodystrophy as a human model of leptin deficiency and replacement, we show that metreleptin improves insulin sensitivity and decreases hepatic and circulating triglycerides and that these improvements are independent of its effects on food intake. TRIAL REGISTRATION. ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01778556 FUNDING. This research was supported by the intramural research program of the NIDDK.


Rebecca J. Brown, Areli Valencia, Megan Startzell, Elaine Cochran, Peter J. Walter, H. Martin Garraffo, Hongyi Cai, Ahmed M. Gharib, Ronald Ouwerkerk, Amber B. Courville, Shanna Bernstein, Robert J. Brychta, Kong Y. Chen, Mary Walter, Sungyoung Auh, Phillip Gorden


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