Abstract The lipoatrophy syndromes are a heterogeneous group of syndromes characterized by a paucity of adipose tissue. Severe lipoatrophy is associated with insulin-resistant diabetes mellitus (DM). The loss of adipose tissue can have a genetic, immune, or infectious/drug-associated etiology. Causative mutations have been identified in patients for one form of partial lipoatrophy – Dunnigan-type familial partial lipodystrophy. Experiments using lipoatrophic mice demonstrate that the diabetes results from the lack of fat and that leptin deficiency is a contributing factor. Thiazolidinedione therapy improves metabolic control in lipoatrophic patients; the efficacy of leptin treatment is currently being investigated.