A recently identified neuropeptide with PRL-releasing capabilities binds to and activates a previously known orphan G protein-coupled receptor, GPR10. We initiated a study to define the pharmacology of the peptide/receptor interaction and to identify the distribution of the peptide and its receptor in the central nervous system to elucidate sites of action of the peptide. The PRL-releasing peptide (PrRP) is a C-terminally amidated, 31-amino acid peptide derived from a 98-amino acid precursor. Radioiodinated PrRP-(1-31) binds to its receptor with high affinity (1 nM) and stimulates calcium mobilization in CHOK1 cells stably transfected with the receptor. A series of N-terminal deletions reveals that the PrRP-(12-31) amino acid is equipotent to PrRP-(1-31). Further N-terminal deletions reduce the affinity of the ligand considerably, although PrRP-(25-31) is still able to compete for binding and behaves as an agonist. The arginine residues at position 26 and 30 are critical for binding, as substitution with either lysine or citrulline reduces the affinity substantially. In situ hybridization reveals a distinct tissue distribution for both the peptide and receptor messenger RNAs. The receptor is expressed abundantly in the reticular thalamic nucleus, periventricular hypothalamus, dorsomedial hypothalamus, nucleus of the solitary tract, area postrema, anterior pituitary, and adrenal medulla. The peptide messenger RNA is expressed in the dorsomedial hypothalamus, nucleus of the solitary tract, ventrolateral reticular nucleus, and intestine. This tissue distribution suggests an alternative function of PrRP than its purported hypophysiotropic function, such as a potential role for PrRP in the central feedback control of neuroendocrine and autonomic homeostasis. Further work using selective agonists and antagonists should help define additional physiological roles of this novel mammalian neuropeptide.