The present study was conducted to measure ob mRNA abundance in the zinc-deficient (ZD) rats and the secretion of leptin from adipose tissue obtained from ZD, zinc-adequate (ZA), and pair-fed (PF) rats. It was found that ob mRNA abundance was greatest (P < 0.05) in adipose tissue obtained from ZA and PF rats. Ob mRNA abundance was similar in PF and ZD rats. To study leptin secretion from adipose tissue in a cell culture model, a method was developed to use excised epididymal adipose tissue from ZD, ZA, and PF rats. Tissue was incubated in Opti-modified Eagle's medium (MEM) cell culture medium in which concentrations of zinc and insulin were manipulated. It was observed that leptin secretion was higher (P < 0.05) in adipose tissue obtained from ZA than ZD and PF rats. Secretion of leptin was higher in adipose tissue of PF than ZD rats (P < 0.05). Surprisingly, media zinc content in this ex vivo model tended to suppress secretion of leptin. This suppression seems to be zinc specific and might be caused by the sequestration of insulin in the culture medium. Our results indicate that the reduction in serum leptin observed in ZD rats is likely caused by not only a reduction in body fat, but also by a decrease in leptin synthesis and secretion per gram of adipose tissue. Taking these results into account along with a prior study (1), it is possible that even a marginal zinc deficiency could affect leptin secretion and serum leptin concentrations. Impaired leptin secretion caused by zinc deficiency might be one factor contributing to hypogonadism observed in zinc deficiency.