Centrally administered histamine (HA) stimulates the secretion of the pro-opiomelanocortin-derived peptides ACTH and beta-endorphin as well as prolactin. The effect of HA on secretion of these adenohypophysial hormones is indirect and may involve activation of hypothalamic neurons containing corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), arginine-vasopressin (AVP) or oxytocin (OT). We studied the effect of activating central HA receptors by central infusion of HA, HA agonists or antagonists on expression of CRH, AVP and OT mRNA in the hypothalamic paraventricular (PVN) and supraoptic (SON) nuclei. Intracerebroventricular infusion of HA (270 nmol), the H1-receptor agonist 2-thiazolylethylamine or the H2-receptor agonist 4-methylhistamine increased the level of CRH mRNA in the PVN, and OT mRNA in the SON. In contrast, none of these compounds had any effect on expression of AVP mRNA in the PVN or SON. Administration of the H1-receptor antagonist mepyramine or the H2-receptor antagonist cimetidine had no effect on basal expression of CRH, AVP or OT mRNA in the PVN and/or SON except for a slight inhibitory effect of cimetidine on CRH mRNA expression in the PVN. Pretreatment with mepyramine or cimetidine before HA administration inhibited the HA-induced increase in OT mRNA levels but had no effect on the HA-induced increase in CRH mRNA levels in the PVN. We conclude that HA stimulates hypothalamic CRH and OT neurons by increasing mRNA levels, and this effect seems to be mediated via activation of both HA H1 and H2 receptors.