Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) is frequently associated with an increased fat mass and an altered fat distribution. The adipocyte derived hormone, leptin has been shown to interact with insulin at various levels and may be intimately involved in this process. However, only limited data concerning the interaction of insulin, glucose tolerance and leptin are available and no data exist on the potential influence of bound vs. free circulating leptin. We therefore studied free and bound leptin in 136 patients (77 males, 59 females) with IGT, in relation to plasma glucose, insulin, proinsulin and C-peptide levels as well as serum free and bound leptin concentrations during an oral glucose tolerance test (oGTT). The expected positive relation of free serum leptin levels with body mass index (BMI) was found. Free leptin concentrations were higher in women than in men. Analysis in tertiles revealed a significant relation between free leptin (16-58, 60-160, and 169-932 pmol/l) and mean fasting insulin levels (65, 93, and 100 pmol/l). This relationship remained significant in a multiple regression analysis with BMI and gender as covariates. Similar independent relationships to leptin serum levels were observed for HbA1c and plasma C peptide levels and the proinsulin/insulin ratio but not for plasma glucose and proinsulin levels. These data suggest a fine tuning of leptin by small changes in circulating insulin levels observed in impaired glucose tolerance.