Hypothalamic mRNA and peptide levels of pro-opio-melanocortin (POMC) and other neuropeptides were studied in rats that either develop obesity (diet-induced obese, DIO), when fed a palatable and hypercaloric diet (cafeteria diet, caf) or do not develop obesity (diet resistant, DR), when fed the same diet. cafDIO rats showed a significant increase in POMC, but not in melanin concentrating hormone, mRNA levels as determined by semiquantitative in situ hybridization. cafDR and cafDIO rats showed no change in POMC-derived peptide levels, whereas neuropeptide Y immunoreactivity was significantly increased in cafDR rats. POMC mRNA levels were also studied in high-fat diet-fed rats but no significant change was observed. Altered hypothalamic transmission by POMC-derived peptides may contribute to the susceptibility of cafDIO rats to the weight promoting action of caf diet.