Minireview: Food for thought: regulation of synaptic function by metabolic hormones

Gemma McGregor, Yasaman Malekizadeh, Jenni Harvey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The peripheral actions of the metabolic hormones, leptin and insulin, are well documented. However, the functions of these hormones are not restricted to the periphery because evidence is growing that both leptin and insulin can readily cross the blood-brain barrier and have widespread central actions. The hippocampus in particular expresses high levels of both insulin and leptin receptors as well as key components of their associated signaling cascades. Moreover, recent studies indicate that both hormones are potential cognitive enhancers. Indeed, it has been demonstrated that both leptin and insulin markedly influence key cellular events that underlie hippocampal learning and memory including activity-dependent synaptic plasticity and the trafficking of glutamate receptors to and away from hippocampal synapses. The hippocampal formation is also a prime site for the neurodegenerative processes that occur during Alzheimer's disease, and impairments in either leptin or insulin function have been linked to central nervous system-driven diseases like Alzheimer's disease. Thus, the capacity of the metabolic hormones, leptin and insulin, to regulate hippocampal synaptic function has significant implications for normal brain function and also central nervous system-driven disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-13
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Blood-Brain Barrier/drug effects
  • Hippocampus/physiology
  • Humans
  • Insulin/metabolism
  • Leptin/metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases/pathology
  • Neuronal Plasticity/physiology
  • Receptors, Leptin/metabolism
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate/metabolism
  • Signal Transduction/physiology
  • Synapses/physiology


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