Intracerebroventricular neuropeptide Y (NPY) administration to normal rats for 7 days produced a sustained, threefold increase in food intake, resulting in a body weight gain of more than 40 g. Basal plasma insulin and triglyceride levels were increased in NPY-treated compared to vehicle-infused rats by about four- and two-fold, respectively. The glucose utilization index of white adipose tissue, measured by the labelled 2-deoxy-D-glucose technique was four times higher in NPY-treated rats compared to controls. This change was accompanied by an increase in the insulin responsive glucose transporter protein (GLUT 4). In marked contrast, muscle glucose utilization was decreased in NPY-treated compared to vehicle-infused animals. This change was accompanied by an increase in triglyceride content. When NPY-treated rats were prevented from overeating, there was no decrease in muscle glucose uptake, nor was there an increase in muscle triglyceride content. This suggests that muscle insulin resistance of ad libitum-fed NPY-treated rats is due to a glucose-fatty acid (Randle) cycle. When intracerebroventricular NPY administration was stopped and rats kept without any treatment for 7 additional days, all the abnormalities brought about by the neuropeptide were normalized. A tonic central effect of NPY is therefore needed to elicit and maintain most of the hormonal and metabolic abnormalities observed in the present study. Such abnormalities are analogous to those seen in the dynamic phase of obesity syndromes in which high hypothalamic NPY levels have been reported.