Serotonin (5-HT) is believed to have an inhibitory influence over feeding behavior. The present experiments were designed to investigate the effects of hypothalamic 5-HT on spontaneously motivated feeding and appetite regulation. Freely-feeding rats were injected with 5-HT or norfenfluramine (NORFENF) directly into the paraventricular hypothalamus (PVN), and precise changes in feeding behavior were monitored by a computer. Following PVN 5-HT or NORFENF injection, animals exhibited a marked suppression in food intake, associated with a decrease in meal size, duration and eating rate, and no change in the frequency of meals consumed. This suggests that brain 5-HT may influence primarily the induction of satiety rather than the suppression of hunger. The effect of drugs presumed to affect brain 5-HT transmission on diet selection was also investigated in groups of rats injected centrally with 5-HT or NORFENF or peripherally with either fenfluramine, quipazine or cyproheptadine. In a series of 2-diet tests, rats centrally injected with 5-HT or NORFENF exhibited a selective suppression of the carbohydrate-rich diets. In animals provided with three pure macronutrient diets, protein, carbohydrate, and fat, systemic administration of serotonergic agents had its greatest impact on fat and carbohydrate ingestion, as compared to protein consumption. These findings support a role for hypothalamic 5-HT in modulating meal patterns and appetite for particular macronutrients.