Author(s): Williams MA, Havel PJ, Schwartz MW, Leisenring WM, King IB
The adipocyte hormone, leptin, is secreted in proportion to adipose mass and is implicated in the regulation of energy balance via its central actions on food intake and sympathetic nervous system activity. The placenta was also shown recently to be a possible source of leptin in pregnant women, raising the possibility that the normal relationship between leptin and adiposity may be altered in pre-eclampsia. We therefore sought to assess the extent to which maternal second trimester serum leptin concentrations differed for women who would subsequently develop pre-eclampsia and those who would remain normotensive. This nested case-control study population comprised 38 women with pregnancy-induced hypertension and proteinuria (pre-eclampsia) and 192 normotensive women. Multiple least-squares regression procedures were used to assess the independent relationship between leptin concentrations and risk of pre-eclampsia. Serum leptin concentrations, measured by radioimmunoassay, were highly correlated with maternal pre-pregnancy and second trimester body mass index (r = 0.71 and r = 0.74 respectively; P < 0.001 for both) among normotensive women, and to a lesser extent among women who developed pre-eclampsia (r = 0.29 and r = 0.42; P = 0.09 and 0.02 respectively). Among women with a pre-pregnancy body mass index of < or = 25 kg/m2, pre-eclampsia cases compared with controls had higher mean second trimester leptin concentrations after adjustment for confounding factors. In contrast, pre-eclampsia cases had lower mean leptin concentrations than controls for those women with a pre-pregnancy body mass index above 25 kg/m2. Other factors in addition to the level of adiposity may therefore influence serum leptin concentrations in pre-eclamptic pregnant women. Our results suggest the possibility that leptin, like several other placentally derived substances (e.g. steroid hormones, eicosanoids and cytokines), may be involved in the pathogenesis of pre-eclampsia. Further work is needed to confirm our findings and to assess the metabolic importance and determinants of leptin concentrations in uncomplicated and pre-eclamptic pregnancies.