Leptin is a hormone secreted by the adipocytes that regulates food intake and energy expenditure. It is known that growth hormone (GH) secretion is markedly influenced by body weight, being suppressed in obesity and cachexia, and recent data have demonstrated that GH release is regulated by leptin levels. Although one of the sites of action of leptin is likely to be the hypothalamus, since leptin receptor mRNA is particularly abundant in several hypothalamic nuclei, the mechanisms by which leptin regulates GH secretion are not yet known. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether leptin could act at the hypothalamic level modulating somatostatin and GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) expression. The administration of anti-GHRH serum (500 µl, i.v.) completely blocked leptin-induced GH release in fasting rats. In contrast, the treatment with anti-somatostatin serum (500 µl, i.v.) significantly increased GH release in this condition. Furthermore, leptin administration (10 µg, i.c.v.) to intact fasting animals reversed the inhibitory effect produced by fasting on GHRH mRNA levels in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus, and increased somatostatin mRNA content in the periventricular nucleus. Finally, leptin administration (10 µg, i.c.v.) to hypophysectomized fasting rats increased GHRH mRNA levels, and decreased somatostatin mRNA content, indicating an effect of leptin on hypothalamic GHRH- and somatostatin-producing neurons. These findings suggest a role for GHRH and somatostatin as mediators of leptin-induced GH secretion.