Leptin is a key neuroendocrine hormone regulating food intake, metabolism, and fat accumulation, and it may also affect blood pressure and contribute to hypertension through sympathetic activation in the vasculature or at the renal level. Although previous studies have shown that the distribution of leptin is significantly different between males and females, as is the risk of hypertension between males and females, results regarding the role of leptin in the gender-specific regulation of blood pressure are controversial. Thus, we performed family-based association analyses in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study to test the hypothesis that LEPTIN gene variants and the plasma leptin level influence variability in blood pressure and the risk of hypertension differently by gender. We identified significant associations between LEPTIN single nucleotide polymorphisms with blood pressure and hypertension, but in postmenopausal women only. We also identified significant associations between plasma leptin levels and both blood pressure and hypertension in women. The current study supports a role for LEPTIN and plasma leptin levels in blood pressure regulation in women. It also provides insight into the gender differences in hypertension, as well as the differential distribution and activity of leptin in men and women. © 2009 American Heart Association. Inc.