Immunohistochemical analysis revealed the presence of a gut-brain peptide, neuromedin U (NMU), in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is the site of the master circadian oscillator. The expression of NMU mRNA exhibited a circadian rhythm, with the peak expression in the SCN occurring at CT4-8h. The two NMU-binding receptors (NMU-R1 and NMU-R2) were also expressed in the SCN, but their phase angles were different. Intracerebroventricular injection (ICV) of NMU induced the expression of Fos protein in the SCN cells and caused a phase-dependent phase shift of the circadian locomotor activity rhythm. The magnitude of the phase shift was dose dependent. This NMU-induced phase shift was of the nonphotic type. Quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis revealed increases in the expression in the SCN of immediate early genes, such as c-fos, NGFI-A, NGFI-B, and JunB. Furthermore, ICV injection of NMU increased the expression of Per1, but not Per2, in the SCN. These results indicate that NMU may play some important role in the circadian oscillator by exerting an autocrine or paracrine action in the SCN.