Obesity is a major risk factor for the development of heart failure. Importantly, it is now appreciated that a change in the number of myocytes is one of multiple structural and functional alterations (remodeling) leading to heart failure. Here we investigate the effect of leptin, the product of the obese (ob) gene, on proliferation of human and murine cardiomyocytes. Leptin caused a time- and dose-dependent significant increase in proliferation of HL-1 cells that was inhibited by preincubation with PD98059 and LY294002, suggesting that leptin mediated proliferation via extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1/2- and phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase-dependent signaling pathways. We confirmed that leptin activates both extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1/2 phosphorylation and association of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (regulatory p85 subunit) with phosphotyrosine immunoprecipitates. We also examined bromodeoxyuridine incorporation as a measure of new DNA synthesis and demonstrated a stimulatory effect of leptin in both HL-1 cells and human cardiomyocytes. Bromodeoxyuridine incorporation in HL-1 cells was inhibited by PD98059 and LY294002. Our results establish a mitogenic effect of leptin in cardiomyocytes and provide additional evidence for a potential direct link between leptin and cardiac remodeling in obesity.