C57BL/6J-mice with a mutation in the obese (ob) gene are obese, diabetic, and exhibit reduced activity, metabolism, and body temperature. Daily intraperitoneal injection of these mice with recombinant OB protein lowered their body weight, percent body fat, food intake, and serum concentrations of glucose and insulin. In addition, metabolic rate, body temperature, and activity levels were increased by this treatment. None of these parameters was altered beyond the level observed in lean controls, suggesting that the OB protein normalized the metabolic status of the ob/ob mice. Lean animals injected with OB protein maintained a smaller weight loss throughout the 28-day study and showed no changes in any of the metabolic parameters. These data suggest that the OB protein regulates body weight and fat deposition through effects on metabolism and appetite.