Adaptive stress responses mediated by the endocrine, autonomic, cardiovascular and immune systems are essential for the survival of the individual. Initial stress-induced responses provide a vital short-term metabolic lift, but prolonged or inappropriate exposure to stress can compromise homeostasis thereby leading to disease. This 'fight-or-flight' response is characterized by the activation of the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)-adrenocorticotropin-glucocorticoid axis, mediated by the type 1 CRH receptor. In contrast, the type 2 CRH receptor mediates the stress-coping responses during the recovery phase of stress. We identified human stresscopin (SCP) and stresscopin-related peptide (SRP) as specific ligands for the type 2 CRH receptor. The genes encoding these peptides were expressed in diverse peripheral tissues as well as in the central nervous system. Treatment with SCP or SRP suppressed food intake, delayed gastric emptying and decreased heat-induced edema. Thus SCP and SRP might represent endogenous ligands for maintaining homeostasis after stress, and could allow the design of drugs to ameliorate stress-related diseases.