Leptin, the product of the ob gene, is a hormone, produced by adipose cells, that inhibits food intake and increases energy expenditure in rodents. In humans, plasma leptin concentrations correlate closely with the size of the adipose tissue depot; however, there is considerable variation in plasma leptin concentrations at any given degree of fatness. To investigate whether individuals prone to weight gain are hypoleptinemic, we measured fasting plasma leptin concentrations in two groups of weight-matched nondiabetic Pima Indians followed for approximately 3 years, 19 of whom subsequently gained weight and 17 of whom maintained their weight. After we adjusted for initial percent body fat, mean plasma leptin concentration was lower in those who gained weight than in those whose weight was stable. These data indicate that relatively low plasma leptin concentrations may play a role in the development of obesity in Pima Indians, a population prone to obesity.