Using in situ hybridization histochemistry, we have investigated the effect of thyroid hormone on the expression of several peptide mRNAs in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of adult male rats. Hypothyroidism was induced by surgical ablation of the thyroid gland. The animals (control sham-operated, thyroidectomized, thyroidectomized + T<sub>4</sub> replaced rats) were studied 28 and 50 days after surgery. Sections of the PVN were hybridized using synthetic oligonucleotide probes complementary to mRNA for thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), galanin (GAL), enkephalin (ENK), neurotensin (NT), vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) and vasopressin (VP). GAL mRNA was also analyzed in the anterior paraventricular, arcuate, and dorsomedial nuclei of the hypothalamus. At the PVN level, a feedback effect of thyroid hormone on TRH synthesis was demonstrated by the TRH mRNA increase in hypothyroidism and by its decrease in hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism caused a dramatic decrease in GAL mRNA in parvo- and magnocellular PVN neurons both 28 and 50 days after thyroid ablation, whereas no effect was seen in VP mRNA, the main peptide hormone coexisting with GAL. The T<sub>4</sub> replacement prevented the GAL mRNA impairment. Hypothyroidism did not influence GAL mRNA in the anterior PVN, perifornical area or in the arcuate nucleus, whereas a decrease in GAL mRNA was observed in the dorsomedial nucleus. VIP mRNA, which is undetectable in the PVN of normal animals, was present in several PVN neurons after thyroidectomy. CRH mRNA was decreased after thyroidectomy, whereas the T<sub>4</sub> restitution caused an upregulation. The levels of ENK or NT mRNA were not significantly affected by the thyroid status. The present results show that, in addition to TRH mRNA, other hypothalamic peptide mRNAs are affected by thyroid hormone levels.