Obesity is a common problem in Western society and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Energy homeostasis is regulated by a complex system involving both peripheral signals such as leptin and a number of orexigenic and anorectic neuropeptides. Obesity can result from dysregulation of the peripheral and/or central signals. Melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) is a hypothalamic peptide that is important in the regulation of feeding behavior, primarily via uncharacterized signaling pathways in the central nervous system. Leptin, expressed in adipose tissue, mediates some of its actions through several hypothalamic neuropeptides, notably agouti-related peptide, proopiomelanocortin, and neuropeptide Y. Expression of leptin is regulated by dietary status, insulin, and glucocorticoids. Furthermore, certain neuropeptides may act on adipocytes. However, the potential effect of MCH has not been investigated. We report that MCH stimulates leptin mRNA expression and leptin secretion. MCH stimulated a 2-fold increase in leptin secretion by isolated rat adipocytes after 4 h of treatment. This increase in secreted leptin was preceded by a rapid and transient increase in ob mRNA levels; MCH stimulated a 2.5-fold increase in ob mRNA within 1 h of treatment, followed by a decline to basal levels within 4 h. In addition, we demonstrate that the MCH receptor SLC-1 is expressed in adipocytes, suggesting that fat cells may be targets of MCH or an MCH-like peptide under physiological conditions. Finally, using a radioimmunoassay, MCH/MCH-like peptide was detected in rat plasma. This study establishes a novel in vitro mammalian system for examining MCH signaling pathways.