Adiponectin, a hormone secreted by adipose tissue, circulates at high concentrations in human plasma. Paradoxically, plasma levels of adiponectin are approximately 50% lower in obese than in lean subjects. An association between low plasma levels of adiponectin and higher risk of developing breast and other cancers was recently reported. Obesity and overweight have also been associated with increased mortality from cancer. To test the hypothesis that adiponectin exerts direct antiproliferative and/or pro-apoptotic effects on cancer cells, we used the MCF7 human breast adenocarcinoma cell line. The proliferation rate of the MCF7 cells was measured using the MTT method, while apoptosis was examined by quantifying the DNA fragmentation using an ELISA assay. In addition, adiponectin receptor 1 (AdipoR1) and AdipoR2 mRNA expression was detected using RT-PCR. Adiponectin diminished the proliferation rate of MCF7 cells; this effect was significant after 48-96 hours of treatment. The presence of receptor expression suggested that the effect of adiponectin on cell proliferation was most likely specific and adiponectin receptor-mediated. Adiponectin induced no apoptosis of MCF7 cells over 48 hours. We conclude that adiponectin inhibits proliferation but causes no apoptosis of MCF7 breast cancer cells. These data suggest that adiponectin may represent a direct hormonal link between obesity and cancer.