Hyperleptinemia is a common feature of pregnancy in mammals. The source of increased plasma leptin is uncertain. We examined leptin secretory rates in vitro to test the hypothesis that leptin secretion is upregulated during pregnancy. Two species of insectivorous bats were examined, Myotis lucifugus and Eptesicus fuscus, because of their unique reproductive cycle. Body mass and plasma leptin significantly increased with gestation and decreased during lactation. Adiposity increased in midgestation, then decreased in late gestation and lactation and was not significantly correlated with plasma leptin in pregnant or early lactating individuals. Leptin secretion in vitro per gram of adipose tissue tended to increase with gestation but was not significantly correlated with plasma leptin in the same individuals. Leptin secretion from placentae, however, increased with gestation and was significantly correlated with plasma leptin from the same individuals. In suckling pups, plasma leptin was high shortly after birth, then decreased to low levels that were not correlated with adiposity thereafter. We conclude that in bats, the placenta is a major source of circulating leptin during pregnancy, and that adiposity and plasma leptin levels are decoupled during three different periods of intense metabolic demand (pregnancy, early lactation, and neonatal growth).
- Adipose tissue