Leptin and ghrelin are novel peptide hormones which are counter-regulatory in the central control of appetite. More recently, it has become clear that these hormones have a range of effects on the cardiovascular system. Leptin increases sympathetic activity, producing a pressor effect when acting on the central nervous system. However, leptin produces vasodilation by an endothelium-dependent mechanism peripherally. Ghrelin decreases sympathetic activity and has a depressor effect when acting on the central nervous system. Peripherally, ghrelin produces vasodilation by an endothelium- independent mechanism. Ghrelin improves left ventricular function and cardiac cachexia in heart failure. Leptin may contribute to cardiac cachexia, and to obesity-related cardiomyopathy by a variety of mechanisms. Leptin has proinflammatory, proliferative and calcification promoting effects in the vasculature. Ghrelin has recently been shown to be anti-inflammatory in the vasculature. Leptin may also produce a pro-thrombotic state through stimulation of platelet aggregation and inhibition of coagulation and fibrinolysis. The evidence for and against these effects as well as their pathophysiological significance in obesity hypertension, heart failure, atherosclerosis and thrombosis are discussed.
Keywords: leptin, ghrelin, obesity, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, heart failure, atherosclerosis, thrombosis
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