Central administration of neuropeptide Y (NPY) potently induces feeding and its abundance in the hypothalamus increases when energy stores fall. Consequently, NPY is considered to be a physiological effector of feeding behavior. Surprisingly, NPY-deficient (NPY-/-) mice feed and grow normally with ad libitum access to food and manifest a normal hyperphagic response after fasting, suggesting that other feeding effectors may compensate for the lack of NPY. Agouti-related protein (AgRP), a melanocortin receptor antagonist, can also stimulate feeding behavior when administered centrally and is coexpressed in a majority of hypothalmamic NPY-ergic neurons, making AgRP a candidate compensatory factor. To test this possibility, we evaluated AgRP mRNA and protein expression, as well as responsiveness to centrally administered AgRP in NPY-/- mice. These studies demonstrate that hypothalamic AgRP mRNA and immunoreactivity are upregulated with fasting and that these increases are not affected by NPY deficiency. Interestingly, NPY-/- mice are hypersensitive to central administration of AgRP(83-132), yet exhibit a normal response to centrally administered MTII, a melanocortin receptor agonist. These data suggest that if AgRP compensates for the lack of NPY in NPY-/- mice, it is not at the level of AgRP synthesis and may instead involve alterations in the postsynaptic signaling efficacy of AgRP. Moreover, the effects of AgRP are not limited to its actions at the melanocortin-4 receptor (MC4R), because MC4R-deficient (MC4R-/-) mice manifest a significant response to centrally administered AgRP. These data imply that AgRP has additional targets in the hypothalamus.