Evolutionary considerations relating to efficiency in reproduction, and survival in hostile environments, suggest that body energy stores are sensed and actively regulated, with stronger physiological and behavioral responses to loss than gain of stored energy. Many physiological studies support this inference, and suggest that a critical axis runs between body fat and the hypothalamus. The molecular cloning of leptin and its receptor-projects based explicitly on the search for elements in this axis-confirmed the existence of this axis and provided important tools with which to understand its molecular physiology. Demonstration of the importance of this soma-brain reciprocal connection in body weight regulation in humans has been pursued using both classical genetic approaches and studies of physiological responses to experimental weight perturbation. This paper reviews the history of the rationale and methodology of the cloning of leptin (Lep) and the leptin receptor (Lepr), and describes some of the clinical investigation characterizing this axis.