This year marks the 20th anniversary of the discovery of leptin, which has tremendously stimulated translational obesity research. The discovery of leptin has led to realizations that have established adipose tissue as an endocrine organ, secreting bioactive molecules including hormones now termed adipokines. Through adipokines, the adipose tissue influences the regulation of several important physiological functions including but not limited to appetite, satiety, energy expenditure, activity, insulin sensitivity and secretion, glucose and lipid metabolism, fat distribution, endothelial function, hemostasis, blood pressure, neuroendocrine regulation, and function of the immune system. Adipokines have a great potential for clinical use as potential therapeutics for obesity, obesity related metabolic, cardiovascular and other diseases. After 20 years of intense research efforts, recombinant leptin and the leptin analog metreleptin are already available for the treatment of congenital leptin deficiency and lipodystrophy. Other adipokines are also emerging as promising candidates for urgently needed novel pharmacological treatment strategies not only in obesity but also other disease states associated with and influenced by adipose tissue size and activity. In addition, prediction of reduced type 2 diabetes risk by high circulating adiponectin concentrations suggests that adipokines have the potential to be used as biomarkers for individual treatment success and disease progression, to monitor clinical responses and to identify non-responders to anti-obesity interventions. With the growing number of adipokines there is an increasing need to define their function, molecular targets and translational potential for the treatment of obesity and other diseases. In this review we present research data on adipose tissue secreted hormones, the discovery of which followed the discovery of leptin 20 years ago pointing to future research directions to unravel mechanisms of action for adipokines. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.