Orexin-A and orexin-B (the hypocretins) are recently described neuropeptides suggested to have a physiological role in the regulation of food intake in the rat. We compared the orexigenic effect of the orexins administered intracerebroventricular (ICV) with other known stimulants of food intake, one strong, neuropeptide Y (NPY), and two weaker, melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) and galanin. Orexin-A consistently stimulated food intake, but orexin-B only on occasions. Both peptides stimulated food intake significantly less than NPY, but to a similar extent to MCH (2 h food intake: NPY 3 nmol, 7.2+/-0.9 g vs saline, 1.5+/-0.2 g, P<0.001, MCH 3 nmol, 3.2+/-0.8 g vs saline, P<0.01, orexin-B 30 nmol, 2. 6+/-0.5 g vs saline, P=0.11) and to galanin (1 h food intake: galanin 3 nmol, 2.0+/-0.4 g vs saline, 0.8+/-0.2 g, P<0.05, orexin-A 3 nmol 2.2+/-0.4 g vs saline, P<0.01; 2 hour food intake: orexin-B 3 nmol, 2.4+/-0.3 g vs saline, 1.3+/-0.2 g, P<0.05). Following ICV orexin-A, hypothalamic c-fos, a maker of neuronal activation, was highly expressed in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN), and the arcuate nucleus (P<0.005 for both). IntraPVN injection of orexin-A stimulated 2 h food intake by one gram (orexin-A 0.03 nmol, 1.6+/-0. 3 g vs saline, 0.5+/-0.3 g, P<0.005). These findings support the suggestion that the orexins stimulate food intake. However, this effect is weak and may cast doubt upon their physiological importance in appetite regulation in the rat.