The extracellular domain of the human leptin receptor (Ob-R) contains 20 potential N-glycosylation sites whose role in leptin binding remains to be elucidated. We found that a mammalian cell-expressed sOb-R (soluble Ob-R) fragment (residues 22-839 of the extracellular domain) bound leptin with a dissociation constant of 1.8 nM. This binding was inhibited by Con A (concanavalin A) or wheatgerm agglutinin. Treatment of sOb-R with peptide N-glycosidase F reduced leptin binding by approximately 80% concurrently with N-linked glycan removal. The human megakaryoblastic cell line, MEG-01, expresses two forms of the Ob-R, of approx. 170 and 130 kDa molecular mass. Endo H (endoglycosidase H) treatment and cell culture with alpha-glucosidase inhibitors demonstrated that N-linked glycans are of the complex mature type in the 170 kDa form and of the high-mannose type in the 130 kDa form. Both isoforms bound leptin, but not after peptide N-glycosidase F treatment. An insect-cell-expressed sOb-R fragment, consisting of the Ig (immunoglobulin), CRH2 (second cytokine receptor homology) and FNIII (fibronectin type III) domains, bound leptin with affinity similar to that of the entire extracellular domain, but this function was abolished after N-linked glycan removal. The same treatment had no effect on the leptin-binding activity of the isolated CRH2 domain. Our findings show that N-linked glycans within Ig and/or FNIII domains regulate Ob-R function, but are not involved in essential interactions with the ligand.