Leucine and leptin play important roles in regulating protein synthesis and degradation in skeletal muscles in vitro and in vivo. However, the objective of the present study was to determine whether leptin and leucine function synergistically in regulating protein metabolism of skeletal muscles. In the in vitro experiment, C2C12 myotubes were cultured for 2 h in the presence of 5 mm-leucine and/or 50 ng/ml of leptin. In the in vivo experiment, C57BL/6 and ob/ob mice were randomly assigned to be fed a non-purified diet supplemented with 3 % l-leucine or 2·04 % l-alanine (isonitrogenous control) for 14 d. Ob/ob mice were injected intraperitoneally with sterile PBS or recombinant mouse leptin (0·1 μg/g body weight) for 14 d. In C57BL/6 mice, dietary leucine supplementation increased (P< 0·05) plasma leptin, leptin receptor expression and protein synthesis in skeletal muscles, but reduced (P< 0·05) plasma urea and protein degradation in skeletal muscles. Dietary leucine supplementation and leptin injection increased the relative weight of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in ob/ob mice. Moreover, leucine and leptin treatments stimulated (P< 0·05) protein synthesis and inhibited (P< 0·05) protein degradation in C2C12 myotubes and skeletal muscles of ob/ob mice. There were interactions (P< 0·05) between the leucine and leptin treatments with regard to protein metabolism in C2C12 myotubes and soleus muscles of ob/ob mice but not in the gastrocnemius muscles of ob/ob mice. Collectively, these results suggest that leptin and leucine synergistically regulate protein metabolism in skeletal muscles both in vitro and in vivo.