Changes in neuropeptide gene expression in the hypothalami of sheep subjected to psychological stress (isolation, 1 h; n=3) or dehydration (48 h; n=3) were examined using in-situ hybridization histochemistry. Compared with non-stressed euhydrated control animals (n=3), isolation induced significant accumulation of mRNA for corticotrophin-releasing hormone, pro-enkephalin and pro-dynorphin (DYN) in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN), but no change in mRNA content within the supraoptic nucleus (SON). By contrast, dehydration significantly increased DYN mRNA in the magnocellular neurones of the PVN and SON. However, neither isolation nor dehydration altered the expression of mRNA for vasopressin (AVP) in either the PVN or the SON. These results indicate that in the ovine hypothalamus (1) stress represents a powerful stimulus to co-ordinated neuropeptide synthesis and (2) expression of DYN mRNA and AVP mRNA may be independently regulated during changes in plasma osmolality.