Leptin (OB protein) reduces food intake by acting at the hypothalamic level. The purpose of the present study was to identify potential targets of leptin signaling in the hypothalamus in ad-lib fed rats. Central administration of leptin (5 microg) for 3 days decreased food intake and body weight gain in association with a decrease in hypothalamic galanin (GAL), melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH), proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and neuropeptide Y (NPY) gene expression and with an increase in neurotensin (NT) gene expression. In pair-fed rats, NPY gene expression was increased and there was no change in either MCH, GAL, POMC or NT gene expression. This study identifies GAL, MCH, POMC and NT as non-NPY targets of leptin signaling and suggests that leptin's action on food intake and body weight is most likely mediated by inhibiting excitatory (e.g. NPY, MCH, GAL, POMC) and stimulating inhibitory (e.g., NT) signals in the feeding circuitry.