Pituitary oxytocin (OT) secretion is inversely related to saline consumption in several experimental models of sodium appetite in rats. Because systemic OT administration does not inhibit sodium appetite, release of OT as a neurotransmitter within the brain, coincident with its secretion from the pituitary, may be related to inhibition of sodium ingestion. The present studies evaluated this possibility by increasing brain OT concentrations both exogenously and endogenously in rats with hypovolemia produced by subcutaneous administration of polyethylene glycol (PEG) solution. Intracerebroventricular (i.c.v) administration of OT completely abolished intake of 0.5 M NaCl in PEG-treated hypovolemic rats, but did not significantly affect PEG-stimulated water intakes. Endogenous OT secretion was stimulated by systemic treatment with naloxone, which has been shown to increase peripheral and central OT levels. In both one-bottle (0.5 M NaCl) and two-bottle (water and 0.5 M NaCl) drinking tests, intraperitoneal naloxone completely abolished sodium appetite in association with markedly increased pituitary secretion of OT. This inhibition of sodium appetite could be prevented by i.c.v. pretreatment with a specific OT-receptor antagonist, although the antagonist by itself did not affect PEG-stimulated sodium intake. These findings therefore support previous reports which have found that sodium appetite in rats is inhibited by treatments that elicit pituitary release of OT, and provide more direct evidence that brain OT is causally involved in the inhibition of sodium appetite stimulated by such treatments in rats.