Leptin is an adipose hormone with well characterized roles in regulating food intake and energy balance. A novel neuroprotective role for leptin has recently been discovered; however, the underlying mechanisms are not clearly defined. The purpose of this study was to determine whether leptin protects against delayed neuronal cell death in hippocampal CA1 following transient global cerebral ischemia in rats and to study the signaling mechanism responsible for the neuroprotective effects of leptin. Leptin receptor antagonist, protein kinase inhibitors and western blots were used to assess the molecular signaling events that were altered by leptin after ischemia. The results revealed that intracerebral ventricle infusion of leptin markedly increased the numbers of survival CA1 neurons in a dose-dependent manner. Infusion of a specific leptin antagonist 10 min prior to transient global ischemia abolished the pro-survival effects of leptin, indicating the essential role of leptin receptors in mediating this neuroprotection. Both the Akt and extracellular signal-related kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) signaling pathways appear to play a critical role in leptin neuroprotection, as leptin infusion increased the phosphorylation of Akt and ERK1/2 in CA1. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition of either pathway compromised the neuroprotective effects of leptin. Taken together, the results suggest that leptin protects against delayed ischemic neuronal death in the hippocampal CA1 by maintaining the pro-survival states of Akt and ERK1/2 MAPK signaling pathways.