An adverse prenatal environment may induce long-term metabolic consequences, in particular obesity, hyperleptinemia, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Although the mechanisms are unclear, this "programming" has generally been considered an irreversible change in developmental trajectory. Adult offspring of rats subjected to undernutrition (UN) during pregnancy develop obesity, hyperinsulinemia, and hyperleptinemia, especially in the presence of a high-fat diet. Using this model of maternal UN, we have recently shown that neonatal leptin treatment in females reverses the postnatal sequelae induced by developmental programming. To examine possible gender-related effects of neonatal leptin treatment, the present study investigated the effect of neonatal leptin treatment on the metabolic phenotype of adult male offspring. Leptin treatment (recombinant rat leptin, 2.5 microg/g.d, sc) from postnatal d 3-13 resulted in a transient slowing of neonatal weight gain, particularly in programmed offspring. Neonatal leptin treatment of male offspring from normally nourished mothers caused an increase in diet-induced weight gain and related metabolic sequelae, including hyperinsulinemia and increased total body adiposity compared with saline-treated controls. This occurred without an increase in caloric intake. These effects were specific to offspring of normal pregnancies and were not observed in offspring of mothers after UN during pregnancy. In the latter, neonatal leptin treatment conferred protection against the development of the programmed phenotype, particularly in those fed the chow diet postnatally. These data further reinforce the importance of leptin in determining long-term energy homeostasis, and suggest that leptin's effects are modulated by gender and both prenatal and postnatal nutritional status.