Leptin is the protein product of the ob gene, secreted by adipocytes. It has been suggested that it may play an important role in regulating appetite and energy expenditure. The aim of this study was to evaluate a possible interaction of thyroid hormones with the leptin system. We studied 114 adult patients (65 females and 49 males): 36 were affected with primary hypothyroidism (PH), 38 with central hypothyroidism (CH) and 40 with thyrotoxicosis (TT). Patients with CH were studied both before and after 6 months of L-thyroxine replacement therapy. Body mass index (BMI; kg/m2), thyroid function and fasting serum leptin were assessed in all patients. Since BMI has been proved to be the major influencing variable of circulating leptin levels, data were expressed as standard deviation score (SDS) calculated from 393 male and 561 female controls matched for age and BMI. No difference in SDS was recorded between males and females whatever the levels of circulating thyroid hormones. In males, no significant difference was recorded among the SDSs of PH (-0.36 +/- 1.2), TT (-0.35 +/- 1.2) and CH (0.01 +/- 1.4) patients. Females with PH had an SDSs significantly lower than TT females (-0.77 +/- 1.0 vs -0.06 +/- 1.2; P < 0.02), while no significant differences between CH (-0.34 +/- 0.7) and TT females or between CH and PH females were observed. SDS in CH patients after 6 months of L-thyroxine therapy significantly varied only in females (0.25 +/- 1.4). In conclusion, circulating thyroid hormones do not appear to play any relevant role in leptin synthesis and secretion. However, as females with either overt hypo- or hyper-thyroidism or central hypothyroidism after L-thyroxine therapy show differences in their SDSs, a subtle interaction between sex steroids and thyroid status in modulating leptin secretion, at least in women, may occur.