There is evidence that central infusion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) induces weight loss in rats. We have begun to investigate the physiological basis for BDNF-induced weight loss by assessing its relationship to (a) appetite, (b) serum indices of metabolic and renal toxicity, and (c) brain monoamine activity in areas associated with feeding or motor function. BDNF (0-6 microgram/day) was infused into the lateral ventricle (LV) of male Long-Evans rats for 14 days. Body weight and food intake were monitored throughout infusion and recovery periods. BDNF induced severe, dose-dependent appetite suppression and weight loss. Although appetite began to recover after the 10th infusion day, body weight had not returned to control values at the end of the recovery period. The weight loss observed in BDNF-infused rats was related to appetite suppression, since uninfused rats that were pair-fed to high dose BDNF-treated rats showed comparable weight loss. Despite severe weight loss, serum BUN, creatinine, thyroxine, glucose, and total protein were not affected by BDNF infusion. Striatal DO-PAC/DA was similarly unaffected by BDNF. In contrast, BDNF-infused rats showed a dose-dependent increase in hypothalamic 5-HIAA/5-HT that was not observed in pair-fed rats, suggesting that the observed increase in hypothalamic 5-HIAA/5-HT was a direct effect of BDNF infusion rather than a secondary effect of food restriction. These data suggest that BDNF may induce appetite suppression and weight loss through a central mechanism.