Leptin has recently been shown to be produced by the human placenta and potentially plays a role in fetal and neonatal growth. Many functions of the placenta are replaced by the mammary gland in terms of providing critical growth factors for the newborn. In this study, we show that leptin is produced by human mammary epithelial cells as revealed by RT/PCR analysis of total RNA from mammary gland and immunohistochemical staining of breast tissue, cultured mammary epithelial cells, and secretory epithelial cells present in human milk. We also verify that immunoreactive leptin is present in whole milk at 30- to 150-fold higher concentrations than skim milk. We propose that leptin is secreted by mammary epithelial cells in milk fat globules, which partition into the lipid portion of breast milk.