Leptin is an adipocyte-derived hormone/cytokine that links nutritional status with neuroendocrine and immune functions. As a hormone, leptin regulates food intake and basal metabolism, and is sexually dimorphic - that is, its serum concentration is higher in females than in males with a similar body fat mass. As a cytokine, leptin can affect thymic homeostasis and the secretion of acute-phase reactants such as interleukin-1 and tumour-necrosis factor. Similar to other pro-inflammatory cytokines, leptin promotes T helper 1 (TH1)-cell differentiation and can modulate the onset and progression of autoimmune responses in several animal models of disease. Here, we review the advances and controversy for a role of leptin in the pathophysiology of immune responses.