In human studies, the principal determinant of serum leptin concentrations is fat mass (FM), but lean mass (LM) also has a significant negative influence. GH treatment in GH deficiency (GHD) alters body composition, increasing LM and decreasing FM, and thus would be expected to alter leptin concentrations. We have therefore examined the acute and chronic effects of GH on serum leptin in 12 elderly GHD subjects (ages 62-85 yr; 3 women and 9 men). FM (kilograms) and LM (kilograms) were determined by dual energy x-ray absortiometry. Leptin, insulin, insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), IGF-II, IGF-binding protein-1 (IGFBP-1), IGFBP-2, and IGFBP-3 were measured by specific immunoassays. Leptin, insulin, and IGFBP-1 concentrations were log10 transformed, and data were expressed as the geometric mean (-1, +1 tolerance factor). All other data are presented as the mean +/- SD. In the acute study, patients received a single bolus dose of GH (0.1 mg/kg BW) at time zero, with blood samples drawn at 0, 12, 24, 48, and 72 h and 1 and 2 weeks. There was a significant rise in leptin, insulin, and IGF-I at a median time of 24 h, followed by a significant fall, and nadir concentrations were reached at a median time of 1.5 weeks (leptin) or 2 weeks (insulin and IGF-I). IGFBP-3 concentrations were also significantly increased, but peak concentrations were not achieved until 48 h. IGF-II, IGFBP-1, and IGFBP-2 exhibited transient decreases before returning to baseline levels. There was no relationship between increased leptin concentrations and either insulin or IGF-I concentrations. In the chronic study, patients received daily GH treatment at doses of 0.17, 0.33, and 0.5 mg/day, each for 3 months (total time on GH, 9 months), and were then followed off GH for a further 3 months. Dual energy x-ray absortiometry was undertaken at 0, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months, and blood samples were drawn at these time points. Over 9 months on GH there was a significant fall in FM and a significant rise in LM, but no change in leptin. There were also significant increments in insulin, IGF-I, and IGFBP-3, whereas IGF-II, IGFBP-1, and IGFBP-2 did not change over 9 months of GH treatment. After 3 months off GH, there was a significant rise in FM and leptin. High dose single bolus GH led to an increase in serum leptin within 24 h apparently independent of changes in insulin or IGF-I. Despite the changes in body composition during chronic GH treatment, there was no change in leptin. However, discontinuation of GH led to a rapid reversal of the favorable body composition and a rise in serum leptin.