Physical activity has documented beneficial effect in treatment of depression. Recently, we found an antidepressant-like effect of running in an animal model of depression, the Flinders Sensitive Line (FSL) and demonstrated that it was associated with increased hippocampal cell proliferation. In this study, we analyzed levels of mRNAs encoding the neuropeptide Y (NPY) and the opioid peptides dynorphin and enkephalin in hippocampus and correlated these to cell proliferation in the FSL and in the 'nondepressed' Flinders Resistant Line (FRL) strain, with/without access to running wheels. Running increased NPY mRNA in dentate gyrus and the CA4 region in FSL, but not in FRL rats. NPY mRNA increase was correlated to increased cell proliferation in the subgranular zone of dentate gyrus. Baseline dynorphin and enkephalin mRNA levels in the dentate gyrus were lower in the FSL compared to the FRL strain. Running had no effect on dynorphin and enkephalin mRNAs in the FSL strain but it decreased dynorphin mRNA, and there was a trend to increased enkephalin mRNA in the FRL rats. Thus, it would appear that the CNS effects of running are different in 'depressed' and control animals; modification of NPY, a peptide associated with depression and anxiety, in depressed animals, vs effects on opioids, associated with the reward systems, in healthy controls. Our data support the hypothesis that NPY neurotransmission in hippocampus is malfunctioning in depression and that antidepressive treatment, in this case wheel running, will normalize it. In addition, we also show that the increased NPY after running is correlated to increased cell proliferation, which is associated with an antidepressive-like effect.