Studies in humans and rodents indicate that a minimum amount of stored energy is required for normal pubertal development. The adipocyte-derived hormone leptin is a key metabolic signal to the neuroendocrine reproductive axis. Humans and mice lacking leptin or the leptin receptor (LepR) (ob/ob and db/db mice, respectively) are infertile and fail to enter puberty. Leptin administration to leptin-deficient subjects and ob/ob mice induces puberty and restores fertility, but the exact site or sites of leptin action are unclear. Here, we found that genetic deletion of LepR selectively from hypothalamic Kiss1 neurons in mice had no effect on puberty or fertility, indicating that direct leptin signaling in Kiss1 neurons is not required for these processes. However, bilateral lesions of the ventral premammillary nucleus (PMV) of ob/ob mice blunted the ability of exogenous leptin to induce sexual maturation. Moreover, unilateral reexpression of endogenous LepR in PMV neurons was sufficient to induce puberty and improve fertility in female LepR-null mice. This LepR reexpression also normalized the increased hypothalamic GnRH content characteristic of leptin-signaling deficiency. These data suggest that the PMV is a key site for leptin's permissive action at the onset of puberty and support the hypothesis that the multiple actions of leptin to control metabolism and reproduction are anatomically dissociated.
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