Systemic treatment with capsaicin, a neurotoxin which damages unmyelinated peptide-containing sensory neurons, has been shown to attenuate bombesin (BBS)-induced suppression of food intake. To determine whether capsaicin-sensitive fibers mediate the effect of BBS on appetitive motivation, we examined BBS-induced suppression of operant responding in rats pretreated neonatally with capsaicin (50 mg/kg; SC) or control vehicle. At 8-10 weeks of age, rats were trained to bar press for food. After achieving a stable level of performance, the animals were injected with BBS (10 micrograms/kg), normal saline, or prefed with 20 Noyes 45-mg pellets. Animals were then tested in an operant chamber on an FR 5 schedule of reinforcement for one hour. The results indicated that BBS suppressed bar pressing, regardless of whether animals were pretreated with capsaicin or control vehicle. These findings are inconsistent with the hypothesis that BBS induces satiety via capsaicin-sensitive neurons. The results suggest the possibility that more than one mechanism may mediate the effects of BBS: a neural mechanism involved in consummatory responses and a humoral mechanism involved in the operant response.