Leptin is required for fertility, including initiation of estrous cycles. It is therefore challenging to assess the role of leptin signaling during pregnancy. Although neuron-specific transgene approaches suggest that leptin signaling in the central nervous system is most important, experiments with pharmacologic inhibition of leptin in the uterus or global replacement of leptin during pregnancy suggest leptin signaling in the reproductive tract may be required. Here, conditional leptin receptor knockout (Lepr cKO) with a progesterone receptor-driven Cre recombinase was used to examine the importance of leptin signaling in pregnancy. Lepr cKO mice have almost no leptin receptor in uterus or cervix, and slightly reduced leptin receptor levels in corpus luteum. Estrous cycles and progesterone concentrations were not affected by Lepr cKO. Numbers of viable embryos did not differ between primiparous control and Lepr cKO dams on Days 6.5 and 17.5 of pregnancy, despite a slight reduction in the ratio of embryos to corpora lutea, showing that uterine leptin receptor signaling is not required for embryo implantation. Placentas of Lepr cKO dams had normal weight and structure. However, over four parities, Lepr cKO mice produced 22% fewer live pups than controls, and took more time from pairing to delivery by their fourth parity. Abnormal birth outcomes of either dystocia or dead pups occurred in 33% of Lepr cKO deliveries but zero control deliveries, and the average time to deliver each pup after crouching was significantly increased. Thus, leptin receptor signaling in the reproductive tract is required for normal labor and delivery.
- embryo implantation
- leptin receptor