In mammals, leptin plays an important role in puberty and reproduction and leptin is regulated by sex steroids. Elevated leptin levels have been associated with sexual maturation in some teleosts such as Atlantic salmon. In the present study, primary cultures of Atlantic salmon hepatocytes were used to investigate the direct effects of different sex steroids on expression of the two salmon leptin-a genes, lepa1 and lepa2. Testosterone (T) stimulated both lepa1 and lepa2 in a dose dependent manner after four days of incubation. The stimulatory effect of T on leptin expression was not prevented by co-incubation with the aromatase inhibitor fadrozole, indicating a direct androgen effect on transcription. The non-aromatizable androgen 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT), which is the main androgen in fish, was generally slightly less potent than T in stimulating lepa1 and lepa2. The strongest stimulatory response was seen for 17β-estradiol (E2). E2 treatment significantly up-regulated lepa1 and lepa2 gene expression at doses of 10nM and 1nM for each gene, respectively. Lepa1, but not lepa2, was stimulated by T and 11-KT in immature male and immature female parr, while E2 stimulated expression of both genes. The sensitivity to sex steroid stimulation differed in maturing males compared to immature. In maturing males, the androgens and E2 stimulated lepa2 but not lepa1, while in immature males, the androgens and E2 stimulated lepa1, but only E2 stimulated lepa2. The differential response of the two leptin paralogues to the sex steroids suggests differences in regulation of the two leptin genes during maturation. Altogether, these results indicate that leptin expression in Atlantic salmon hepatocytes is directly regulated at the transcriptional level by the main teleost androgens and an estrogen, and that the response might depend on the developmental stage of the fish.