The leptin receptor (OB-R) bears homology to members of the class I cytokine receptor family. We demonstrate that leptin binding to OB-R stimulates formation of STAT-1 and STAT-3 complexes, thereby defining transcriptional motifs for genes that are under leptin control. Transfected fa OB-R bound leptin with equal affinity to that of wild type OB-R. fa OB-R abundance was about 7 fold reduced compared to control cells. Surprisingly, the low level of fa OB-R is fully capable of activating the STAT signal transduction pathway. We discuss plausible explanations for the obese phenotype in Zucker fatty rats.