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The effects of leptin on food intake, metabolism, sleep patterns and reproduction may be mediated, in part, by the midbrain serotonergic systems. Here, we report on the distribution of neurones that accumulate leptin in the raphe nuclei of male and female rats after intracerebroventricular administration of mouse recombinant leptin labelled with digoxigenin. Direct leptin-targeted cells were present in the periventricular grey, pontine and raphe nuclei. Confocal microscopy revealed that raphe neurones which accumulated leptin were predominantly serotonergic. The temporal pattern of leptin accumulation by raphe neurones showed a marked gender difference: 6 h after leptin administration, all male and female rats showed massive leptin binding in the dorsal raphe, while 30 min after leptin treatment, only 10% of male rats exhibited leptin-labelled cells in contrast to 50% of females. The present observations reveal that leptin can be selectively accumulated by serotonergic neurones in the raphe nuclei and that this mechanism is gender specific. These findings support the idea that the midbrain serotonergic system is an important mediator of the effects of leptin on brain function and may provide an explanation for gender differences in metabolism regulation and its coordination with higher functions of the brain.