The aim of the present study was to determine whether leptin might play a role in the gonadotrophic response of mature merino rams to changes in the level of nutrition in rams fed ad libitum. Recombinant bovine leptin was infused intracerebroventricularly and voluntary food intake (VFI) and luteinizing hormone (LH) pulse frequency were measured. In Experiment 1, rams (n = 5) were infused for 24 h per day for 5 days with vehicle or with leptin (0.04, 0.4 and 4.0 pg h(-1)). All doses decreased both VFI and LH pulse frequency. In Experiment 2, rams were infused for 24 h per day for 5 days with vehicle (n = 10) or leptin (4 mug h(-1); n = 5); a sub-group of 5 controls was pair-fed to the leptin-infused group to control for effects of changes in feed intake. LH pulse frequency was reduced equally in both the leptin-infused and pair-fed groups. Leptin did not affect other systems controlled by the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. Thus. rather than stimulate LH secretion, intracerebral leptin specifically inhibits it by reducing food intake, so it is unlikely that effects of nutrition on the reproductive axis in mature rams involves leptin as a single blood-borne signal. A range of nutritional or metabolic inputs may be needed, and perhaps interconnections between neural centres that control appetite and reproduction.