Increasing evidence indirectly suggests a role for oxytocinergic neurons in the control of ingestive behaviors. The present study was aimed at directly investigating a possible effect of oxytocin on food and water intake in rats. Oxytocin, whether administered intracerebroventricularly (ICV) (1-10 micrograms/rat) or intraperitoneally (IP) (375-3,000 micrograms/kg) dose dependently inhibited food intake in freely feeding animals; in schedule-fed animals fasting for 21 h, oxytocin not only reduced food intake but also reduced the time spent eating and increased the latency to first meal. On the other hand, oxytocin antagonist d(CH2)5Tyr(Me)-[Orn8]-vasotocin, ICV injected at the dose of 10 micrograms/rat, increased food intake and time spent eating and reduced the latency to first meal; moreover, it completely prevented the effect of oxytocin. Water intake was studied both in freely drinking animals and in three different models of thirst (water deprivation, hypertonic saline administration, angiotensin II injection). In all cases, oxytocin dose dependently inhibited water intake, in a dose range of 0.1-10 micrograms/rat (ICV) or 93-750 micrograms/kg (IP). In the water deprivation model, ICV pretreatment with d(CH2)5Tyr(Me)-[Orn8]-vasotocin completely prevented the antidipsogenic effect of oxytocin. In conclusion, these data show that oxytocin directly inhibits food and water intake in rats, the effect being specifically mediated by brain oxytocin receptors. This may support the idea that the brain oxytocinergic system plays an important role in the regulation of ingestive behaviors.