Leptin is now recognized as a proinflammatory cytokine and thought to be a progressive factor for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Here we showed the effects of leptin on the production of TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor-alpha) by Kupffer cells (KCs) with signal transduction. Leptin enhanced TNF-alpha production accompanied by a dose-dependent increase of MAPK activity in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated KCs. SB203580 and JNK inhibitor I, specific inhibitors of P38 and JNK, inhibited TNF-alpha production in KCs but PD98059, an inhibitor of the ERK pathway, did not affect TNF-alpha production by KCs. Recombinant constitutively active adenovirus (Ad)-MKK6 and-MKK7 increased TNF-alpha production in KCs with activation of P38 and JNK without any change by Ad-MEK1 delivery. On the other hand, KCs isolated from the Zucker rat (fa/fa), a leptin receptor-deficient rat, showed reduced production of TNF-alpha on stimulation with LPS. The delivery of Ad-MKK6 and-MKK7, but not Ad-MEK1, increased TNF-alpha production in KCs of Zucker rats with activation of P38 and JNK. Addition of leptin to normal rats increased LPS-induced hepatic TNF-alpha production in vivo and leptin receptor-deficient Zucker rats showed reduced hepatic TNF-alpha production on addition of LPS in vivo. These findings indicate that P38 and JNK pathways are involved in the signal transduction of leptin enhancement of LPS-induced TNF-alpha production.