A convergence of evidence suggests that stimulation of lateral hypothalamic (LH) neurons can elicit eating, but the neurotransmitters that mediate this effect are unknown. To determine whether glutamate might be involved, it was injected through chronic guide cannulas directly into the LH of satiated adult male rats and consequent food intake was measured. Glutamate produced a dose-dependent eating response (mean intakes of 3.7 g at 300 nmol and 5.2 g at 900 nmol) only within the first hour after injection. As a first step in determining the receptor types mediating this response, agonists for specific excitatory amino acid (EAA) receptors were similarly tested. Kainic acid (KA), D,L-alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-isoxazole propionic acid (AMPA) or N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) injected into the LH each elicited eating in a dose-dependent fashion beginning at 0.33 to 1.0 nmol. At maximally effective doses (1.0-33 nmol), each agonist elicited food intakes of approximately nine grams within 1 h. Finally, analysis of meal and behavioral patterns produced by LH injection of glutamate (600 nmol) and KA (1.0 nmol) revealed that the elicited eating usually began 2-3 min postinjection and consisted of a single normal to large size meal. There were no other behavioral effects during this initial postinjection period and no effects on other oral behaviors, like drinking or gnawing, at any time. Collectively, these findings suggest that glutamate may act through several subtypes of its receptors on some LH neurons to elicit eating.