The obese phenotype-inducing N82K mutation in human leptin disrupts receptor-binding and biological activity

Leonora Niv-Spector, Michal Shpilman, Asaf Grupi, Arieh Gertler

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13 Scopus citations


A novel homozygous mutation of the leptin gene was recently reported in an Egyptian child and his sister with severe early onset obesity. This mutation results from the substitution of asparagine (AAC) by lysine (AAA) at codon 103 of a non-mature (signal peptide-containing) leptin and corresponds to the N82K mutation in the mature protein. The patient had very low serum leptin levels, raising the question of whether the obese phenotype resulted from low leptin levels or from its lower intrinsic activity. To answer this question, we characterized the functional consequences of the N82K mutation. Wild-type (WT) human leptin was mutated accordingly, expressed in Escherichia coli at high yield, purified to homogeneity as a monomer and compared to WT human leptin prepared by the same methodology. Circular dichroism analysis of the mutated leptin indicated proper refolding and a secondary structure identical to that of the WT human leptin. In contrast to WT human leptin, the N82K mutant did not form a detectable complex with human leptin-binding domain (hLBD) and its binding capacity to hLBD assessed in a nonradioactive receptor-binding assay was at least 500-fold lower than that of WT human leptin. The biological activity of the N82K mutant, tested in two cell bioassays, was reduced by more than three orders of magnitude relative to WT human leptin. Therefore, though the present report does not explain the reason for the low circulating leptin levels it definitely documents that the reported obese phenotype originates not only from low serum leptin levels but also from the N82K mutant's almost total lack of intrinsic leptin activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-197
Number of pages5
JournalMolecular Genetics and Metabolism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Binding
  • Biological activity
  • Human leptin
  • Obese phenotype
  • Rational mutagenesis


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