Leptin is involved in food intake and thermogenesis regulation. Since leptin receptor expression has been found in several tissues including small intestine, a possible role of leptin in sugar absorption by the intestine was investigated. Leptin inhibited D-galactose uptake by rat small intestinal rings 33% after 5 min of incubation. The inhibition increased to 56% after 30 min. However, neither at 5 min nor at 30 min did leptin prevent intracellular galactose accumulation. This leptin effect was accompanied by a decrease of the active sugar transport apparent Vmax (20 vs. 4.8 micromol/g wet weight 5 min) and apparent Km (15.8 vs. 5.3 mM) without any change in the phlorizin-resistant component. On the other hand, immunohistochemical experiments using anti-leptin monoclonal antibodies recognized leptin receptors in the plasma membrane of immune cells located in the lamina propria. These results indicate for the first time that leptin has a rapid inhibitory effect on sugar absorption and demonstrate the presence of leptin receptors in the intestinal mucosa.