Immunoreactive glucocorticoid receptors (GR) have previously been demonstrated in neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurones of the rat hypothalamus. To determine whether NPY synthesis is influenced by glucocorticoids, the effect of dexamethasone (DEX) on the levels of immunoreactive NPY in rat hypothalamic neurones was investigated in vivo and in vitro. Daily injections of DEX (0.1 mg/day) for 5 days increased the NPY content of the mediobasal hypothalamus in female rats by 117% (p less than 0.002). Primary cultures of hypothalamic neurones were also sensitive to the effect of glucocorticoids. Intracellular NPY levels were significantly increased (p less than 0.001) compared to control values by 151%, 222% and 268% when cultures were maintained in a defined serum free medium containing DEX 10(-9), 10(-8) and 10(-7) M respectively.