Abstract The effects of leptin hormone are mediated by interactions with several physiological regulatory systems and the cytokine network, and by targeting cells directly. The leptin receptor is a member of the class I cytokine receptor family, and its signal transduction resembles that induced by many cytokines. We demonstrated that serially cultured human articular chondrocytes possess the leptin receptor (Ob-R), and that this receptor was present on chondrocytes in native human cartilage. In cultured chondrocytes we detected mRNA for the functional isoform of leptin receptor (Ob-Rb or Ob-RL), and it was revealed that ligand binding resulted in phosphorylation of signal transducers and activators of transcription, namely STAT1 and STAT5. Chondrocytes stimulated with leptin exhibited an increased proliferation and an enhanced synthesis of extracellular matrix (proteoglycans and collagen). These results indicate that leptin affects cartilage generation directly, which is a novel role for leptin in skeletal growth and development.