Genetically obese Zucker rats are hyperphagic, hyperinsulinemic and hyperlipemic. In order to investigate pathophysiological mechanisms underlying hyperphagia in these animals, monoamine metabolism and turnover were studied in discrete hypothalamic nuclei known to participate in the control of feeding behavior. Neurochemical studies in genetically obese Zucker rats and in their lean littermate controls were complemented by investigating feeding behavioral responses to the acute administration of clonidine (15 and 30 µg/kg i.p.), an α<sub>2</sub>-adrenoceptor agonist, and to trifluoromethylphenylpiperazine (TFMPP; 1, 2 and 5 mg/kg s.c), a putative serotonergic 5-hydroxytryptamine-1B receptor agonist. Obese Zucker rats had significantly lower concentrations of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid, the main deaminated metabolite of 5-hydroxytryptamine, in the nucleus paraventricularis (PVN) and in the nucleus ventromedialis (VMN), when compared to their lean littermate controls. The rate of accumulation of 5-hydroxytryptophan after decarboxylase inhibition was reduced in the PVN, nucleus supraopticus, nucleus periventricularis and nucleus suprachiasmaticus of the obese rats. No differences were observed in basal concentrations of norepinephrine, dopamine or 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid between obese and lean Zucker rats in the brain areas studied. However, the rate of accumulation of 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine was lower in the VMN and in the median eminence of the obese rats. The feeding behavioral tests showed significantly augmented hyperphagic responses to clonidine in obese Zucker rats. The anorexic effect of TFMPP was similar in both phenotypes. It is concluded that serotonergic activity is reduced in obese Zucker rats, particularly in the PVN, which plays a key role in the control of feeding behavior. The reduced serotonergic activity may be associated with enhanced α<sub>2</sub>-adrenoceptor-mediated feeding responses in obese Zucker rats. Both of these factors may play important roles in the development of hyperphagia and genetically determined obesity in these rats.