Oleoylethanolamide (OEA) is a structural analog of the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide, which does not activate cannabinoid receptors. The biosynthesis of OEA in rat small intestine is increased by feeding and reduced by fasting. Moreover, OEA decreases food intake in food-deprived rats via a mechanism that requires intact sensory fibers (Rodríguez de Fonseca, 2001). These results suggest that OEA may contribute to the peripheral regulation of feeding. In the present study, we have investigated the effects of systemic OEA administration (1-20 mg/kg, intraperitoneal) on meal pattern in free-feeding and food-deprived rats. In free-feeding animals, OEA delayed feeding onset in a dose-dependent manner, but had no effect on meal size or postmeal interval. In food-deprived animals, OEA both delayed feeding onset and reduced meal size. The selective effects of OEA in free-feeding rats are strikingly different from those of the serotonergic anorexiant d-fenfluramine (which delayed feeding and reduced meal size) and the intestinal peptide cholecystokinin (which reduced meal size). These results suggest that OEA may participate in the regulation of satiety and may provide a chemical scaffold for the design of novel appetite-suppressing medications.