Brain-derived neurotrophic factor has been associated previously with the regulation of food intake. To help elucidate the role of this neurotrophin in weight regulation, we have generated conditional mutants in which brain-derived neurotrophic factor has been eliminated from the brain after birth through the use of the cre-loxP recombination system. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor conditional mutants were hyperactive after exposure to stressors and had higher levels of anxiety when evaluated in the light/dark exploration test. They also had mature onset obesity characterized by a dramatic 80-150% increase in body weight, increased linear growth, and elevated serum levels of leptin, insulin, glucose, and cholesterol. In addition, the mutants had an abnormal starvation response and elevated basal levels of POMC, an anorexigenic factor and the precursor for alpha-MSH. Our results demonstrate that brain derived neurotrophic factor has an essential maintenance function in the regulation of anxiety-related behavior and in food intake through central mediators in both the basal and fasted state.