The synthetic ACTH/MSH(4-9) analog HOE 427 ("ebiratide"), which is behaviorally the most potent ACTH-derived peptide but which is devoid of endocrine activity, was administered intravenously in a pulsatile mode 4 times (120 micrograms each) at 2200, 2300, 2400 and 0100 to study its effect on the sleep EEG and on concomitant hormonal secretion of cortisol and growth hormone. In comparison to placebo, the peptide produced signs of general activation associated with specific deteriorating effects on the quality of sleep. Sleep onset latency and intermittent wakefulness were increased, slow wave sleep was reduced, but only during the first 3 hours of the sleep period. The nocturnal secretory patterns of cortisol and growth hormone were unaffected by HOE 427. These effects are different from those reported in similar studies in which corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) was applied in humans, and they suggest that peripherally administered neuropeptides have specific nonendocrine behavioral effects.