The adipocytokine leptin centrally regulates body weight by enhancing metabolic rate and signaling satiety, but it also has wide-ranging peripheral effects. Leptin receptors are expressed on vascular smooth muscle cells and have a role in maintaining vascular tone. We investigated the vascular effects of leptin repletion or calorie restriction on leptin-deficient mice (ob/ob) and a leptin antagonist on wild-type (WT) mice. Aortic compliance was assessed by the measurement of pulse wave velocity by noninvasive Doppler; blood pressure was measured by left ventricular catheterization. We found that ob/ob mice have much stiffer aortas than WT mice and that reduction in aortic stiffness was greater in ob/ob mice treated with leptin vs calorie restriction, despite similar weight loss. Interestingly, treating WT mice with a leptin antagonist increases aortic stiffness with no change in weight. Thus, we conclude that leptin is essential for maintaining normal aortic compliance independent of body weight. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.