Leptin is a 16 kD polypeptide hormone produced predominantly by white adipose tissue and exerts profound effects on food intake and energy balance. More recent studies have shown extra sites of leptin production in human and rodent tissues and have ascribed additional roles for the hormone, e.g., in immune and reproductive functions. A role for the hormone has also been implicated in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in the non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse. However, whether leptin originates from islet cells of the mouse is not known. Here dual-label immunohistochemistry was employed to examine leptin expression in islet cells, and its distribution and cellular sources in pancreatic sections of female NOD/Ak and CD-1 mice of various ages. For comparison, leptin immunolabelling was examined in adult pancreatic sections from male NOD/Ak CD-1, Balb/c and FVB/N mice and female severe combined immunodeficient CB. 17 mice. Pancreatic tissues from adult female guinea pig, sheep and cattle and neonatal pigs were also studied. Our results show that in the day 1 NOD and CD-1 mice, leptin immunolabelling was observed in selective glucagon cells within the developing islets while at days 15 and 22, it became more intense and co-incident. This pattern of staining was maintained at days 40, 90, 150 and 250. In the female NOD mouse, leptin was absent in intra-islet immune cells. Its expression was variable in islets from male NOD and CD-1 mice. In spontaneously diabetic female NOD mice and following acceleration of diabetes with cyclophosphamide, despite the persistence of strong immunolabelling for glucagon in the re-distributed alpha cells, leptin expression was either absent, diminished or present in only a proportion of alpha cells. The reduction in leptin labelling was often associated with diabetic islets which had insulitis in association with only a small number of residual beta cells. Leptin expression was absent in guinea pig, ovine, bovine and neonatal porcine islet cells, despite the expression of intensely labelled glucagon cells. The present results demonstrate leptin co-localization in glucagon cells of the mouse islet. Its expression diminishes in the presence of inadequate insulin. Leptin produced within the mouse islet may have bi-directional influences on leptin and insulin regulation and may play local functions in islet development and metabolism.