Lateral cerebroventricular (LCVT) administration of the alpha-MSH agonist analog Nle4DPhe7alpha-MSH (NDP-MSH) inhibited food intake in food-deprived rats, but did not inhibit water intake in water-deprived rats. When NDP-MSH was administered into the fourth ventricle (4CVT), comparable suppressions of food intake were observed. LCVT and 4CVT administration of NDP-MSH also reduced spontaneous 24 h food intake. LCVT injection of NDP-MSH greatly attenuated food intake stimulated in sated rats by acute CVT administration of neuropeptide Y (NPY). These and other data suggest that alpha-MSH is an important endogenous regulator of food intake, possibly acting downstream of NPY. In an attempt to assess further the sites of action of NDP-MSH, a qualitative mapping study of Fos-like immunoreactive (Fos-ir) neurons was performed following LCVT administration of NDP-MSH. LCVT injection of NDP-MSH induced Fos-ir in several forebrain regions including cortex, striatum, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus and arcuate nucleus. The combination of NPY and NDP-MSH did not produce obvious antagonism or cancellation of effects in any region examined. Thus, the site(s) of action of NDP-MSH on food intake remain to be clarified.