The distribution of neuropeptide Y-like immunoreactivity (NPY-LI) was investigated by immunohistochemistry and radioimmunoassay (RIA) in the brain of the Djungarian hamster ( Phodopus sungorus) held under either long or short photoperiods. In the diencephalic and telencephalic structures studied, distinct patterns of NPY-LI were basically consistent in male and female animals of both groups. NPY levels detected by RIA from tissue samples taken at six time points throughout the 24-hour cycle were in the range of 15-60 pmol/ mg protein in the diencephalon or below 5 pmol/mg protein in cerebral cortex. In the diencephalon, immunoreactive structures were seen in the preoptic, peri- and paraventricular, supraoptic, anterior, lateral, dorso- and ventromedial hypothalamic nuclei and in the median eminence. The suprachiasmatic nuclei exhibited a dense innervation by NPY-LI terminals mainly in its ventrolateral subdivision. NPY levels in the suprachiasmatic nucleus were nocturnal-ly augmented under long-day, but not under short-day conditions. The quantification of NPY in the paraventricular nucleus revealed a decrease at night in long-day animals and a small nocturnal augmentation in short-day hamsters. In the pineal gland and habenular nuclei, varicose fibers were observed which appeared mainly perivascular in location (pineal) or formed a dense plexus (habenular nuclei). Pineal NPY contents fell during the night in long-day animals and were relatively constant in short-day hamsters. NPY-LI structures were also observed in the metathalamic intergeniculate leaflet and in a variety of telencephalic structures including the cerebral cortex, caudate nucleus puta-men, lateral septal nucleus, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and amygdala.