Researchers find first evidence of fat-regulating hormone in avian species

Research team discovers first sign of Leptin in avian speciesA team of researchers that includes Larry A. Cogburn, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at the University of Delaware, recently found leptin in the rock dove, or pigeon.

The team includes scientists from the Agricultural Research Organization in Israel led by professors Miriam Friedman-Einat and Eyal Seroussi and four Israeli colleagues: Sara Yosefi, Gideon Hen, Dima Shinder, and Andrey Shirak.

The work is documented in a paper, “Discovery and Characterization of the First Genuine Avian Leptin Gene in the Rock Dove (Columba livia),” which was recently published in the September issue of Endocrinology.

Leptin and its receptor play critical roles in the control of food intake and energy expenditure, thereby affecting body weight, abdominal fatness, thermogenesis, insulin sensitivity, and lipid metabolism.

Since leptin was discovered 20 years ago, more than 115,000 papers have been published on this protein in humans, and another 5,000 have appeared on leptin in mice.

Leptin’s popularity is not surprising, as the hormone is the principal marker for the development of morbid obesity in humans.

Despite the attention focused on leptin in mammals over the past two decades, many questions remain unanswered about its role and mechanism, especially in non-mammalian species, and documentation of its presence in birds has proved particularly elusive.

“We’ve finally solved a 20-year mystery with the discovery and functional characterization of the first leptin gene in any bird,” Cogburn says. “Our hope is that further study of leptin in birds could identify novel mechanisms controlling appetite and energy balance and one day help solve the problem of obesity in humans.”

For more information on the study, check out the article by Diane Kukich on UDaily.