The possibility that the growth hormone (GH) suppression associated with obesity is due to alterations in hypothalamic GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) and/or somatostatin (SRIH) has been considered, but the data are not consistent. In the present study, we sought to clarify the roles of GHRH and SRIH in obesity by using in situ hybridization to localize and quantify the level of expression of GHRH mRNA- and SRIH mRNA-containing neurons in the hypothalamus of male and female lean and obese Zucker rats (12 weeks of age; n = 6 per group). In lean animals, the number of GHRH mRNA-expressing cells in the arcuate nucleus and SRIH mRNA-containing neurons in the periventricular nucleus was 2- to 3-fold higher in males compared to females. The obese phenotype in the male was associated with a striking reduction in arcuate GHRH mRNA expression, both in terms of number of cells (–71%; p < 0.01) and grains/cell (–44%; p < 0.05). In contrast, in obese females, there was a marked augmentation (+175%; p < 0.05) in the number of GHRH mRNA-containing cells in the arcuate nucleus compared to their lean litter-mates. The small population of GHRH mRNA-containing neurons of the ventromedial nucleus was not modified in male obese rats, while it was considerably increased (p < 0.05) in obese females. Neither the number or labeling density of SRIH mRNA-containing neurons in the periventricular and arcuate nuclei of obese rats of either sex was changed when compared to their sex-matched lean counterparts. These results demonstrate that: (1) the obese male Zucker rat exhibits a marked diminution in hypothalamic GHRH mRNA expression, while a reverse pattern is evident in the obese female; (2) hypothalamic SRIH mRNA-containing neurons are not significantly altered in obese rats of both sexes. Our findings suggest that the impaired GH secretion of the obese Zucker rat is due, at least in part, to alterations in hypothalamic GHRH gene expression and that SRIH does not play a major role.