Leptin, the ob gene product secreted by adipocytes, controls overall energy balance. We previously showed that leptin administration to leptin-deficient obese (ob/ob) mice suppressed mRNA expression and activity of renal 25-hydroxyvitamin D(3)-1alpha-hydroxylase (CYP27B1). In leptin receptor-deficient (db/db) mice, we presently examined whether leptin affects 1alpha-hydroxylase expression in renal tubules through the active form of the leptin receptor (ObRb). Elevated serum concentrations of calcium and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) [1,25-(OH)(2)D(3)] in untreated ob/ob mice showed sharp reduction with leptin administration (4 mg/kg, i.p. every 12h for 2 days); no such reduction of elevation occurred in db/db mice. ObRb mRNA was expressed in kidney, brain, fat, lung, and bone in wild-type and ob/ob mice, but not db/db mice. The ob/ob and db/db mice showed large increases in renal 1alpha-hydroxylase mRNA expression and activity. Leptin administration (4 mg/kg) completely abrogated these increases in ob/ob but not db/db mice. Renal 25-hydroxyvitamin D(3)-24-hydroxylase (CYP24) mRNA synthesis also was greatly elevated in ob/ob and db/db mice; excesses decreased significantly with leptin administration in ob/ob mice, but increased in db/db mice. Renal tubular cells in primary culture expressed mRNAs including proximal tubules markers (1alpha-hydroxylase and megalin), parathyroid hormone receptor, and vitamin D receptor. Calcitonin receptor mRNA, synthesized mainly in distal tubules, was scant, indicating that most cultured cells were from proximal tubules. Cells did not express ObRb mRNA. Forskolin exposure at 10(-6)M for 3 or 6h significantly increased 1alpha-hydroxylase mRNA. Leptin at 10(-6)M did not change mRNA expression in either presence or absence of forskolin. Accordingly, leptin attenuates renal 1alpha-hydroxylase gene expression through ObRb. Furthermore, leptin appears to act indirectly on renal proximal tubules to regulate 1alpha-hydroxylase gene expression.