Thyrotrophin-releasing hormone (TRH) is known to play an important role in the control of food intake and energy metabolism in addition to its actions on the pituitary-thyroid axis. We have previously shown that central administration of TRH decreases food intake in Siberian hamsters. This species is being increasingly used as a physiological rodent model in which to understand hypothalamic control of long-term changes in energy balance because it accumulates fat reserves in long summer photoperiods, and decreases food intake and body weight when exposed to short winter photoperiods. The objectives of our study in Siberian hamsters were: (i) to investigate whether peripheral administration of TRH would mimic the effects of central administration of TRH on food intake and whether these effects would differ dependent upon the ambient photoperiod; (ii) to determine whether TRH would have an effect on energy expenditure; and (iii) to investigate the potential sites of action of TRH. Both peripheral (5-50 mg/kg body weight; i.p.) and central (0.5 microg/ml; i.c.v.) administration of TRH decreased food intake, and increased locomotor activity, body temperature and oxygen consumption in the Siberian hamster, with a rapid onset and short duration of action. Systemic treatment with TRH was equally effective in suppressing feeding regardless of ambient photoperiod. The acute effects of TRH are likely to be centrally mediated and independent of its role in the control of the production of thyroid hormones. We conclude that TRH functions to promote a catabolic energetic state by co-ordinating acute central and chronic peripheral (thyroid-mediated) function.