CholecystokininB receptors in the hypothalamic supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei may be involved in the regulation of appetite and neuroendocrine function. In situ hybridisation was used to determine levels of mRNA encoding cholecystokininB receptors in these nuclei in normal rats and rats deprived of food, water or both food and water for 4 days. Food deprivation produced no significant change in the level of cholecystokininB mRNA in these hypothalamic nuclei. Water deprivation increased cholecystokininB mRNA levels (412 +/- 16% and 1009 +/- 69% of control for supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei, respectively) while combined food and water deprivation resulted in significantly smaller increases in these nuclei (193 +/- 20% and 303 +/- 44% of control). Increases in the paraventricular nucleus were most prominent in magnocellular (especially oxytocin-rich) subdivisions of this nucleus. These selective alterations are consistent with similar changes in cholecystokinin receptor density in these hypothalamic nuclei, and support an autocrine/paracrine role for cholecystokinin in the regulation of appetite and endocrine function via effects on hypothalamic oxytocinergic activity.