Leptin is an adipocyte-derived hormone that primarily acts in the hypothalamus and plays a key role in the regulation of food intake, body weight, energy expenditure and neuroendocrine function. Leptin has direct peripheral effects on several tissues, and it may be independently involved in insulin secretion and action besides its effects on body weight regulation. Basal plasma leptin and insulin concentrations correlate with each other. Insulin and glucose appear to increase leptin secretion. In turn, leptin increases peripheral insulin sensitivity while decreasing insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells. Leptin increases skeletal muscle glucose uptake and oxidation, and suppresses hepatic glucose output. Effects of leptin on lipid metabolism might reduce lipotoxicity and therefore contribute to the improvement of hepatic, skeletal and whole body insulin sensitivity. Leptin is the first adipokine used in the treatment of hypoleptinemic clinical disorders. Although leptin therapy has limited success in common obesity, it has impressive effects in congenital leptin deficiency, lipoatrophic diabetes and syndromes of severe insulin resistance. Leptin has been reported to ameliorate hyperinsulinemia and diabetes in the clinical setting of congenital leptin deficiency. It also improves hyperglycernia, insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, dyslipidemia and hepatic steatosis in lipoatrophic diabetes. These promising results warrant clinical trials to test the hypothesis that leptin alone or with classical antidiabetic agents may potentially be beneficial in the treatment of hypoleptinemic non-obese individuals with glucose intolerance and diabetes. This review summarizes the clinical applications of leptin, particularly emphasizing the effects of leptin on glucose homeostasis. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.