Growth hormone (GH) secretion is altered in poorly controlled diabetic animals. However, modifications in the hypothalamic neuropeptides that control GH secretion, somatostatin and GH-releasing hormone (GHRH), as well as changes in the sensitivity of the hypothalamus and pituitary to the feedback effects of GH, are less clear. We have used RNase protection assays and in-situ hybridization to address whether the mRNA expression of GH, somatostatin and GHRH, as well as of the GH receptor (GHR) in the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary, are altered in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. After induction of diabetes, rats were treated with insulin twice daily for 3 weeks to obtain either poorly controlled (mean plasma glucose >300 mg/dl) or well-controlled diabetic rats. Although no significant change in pituitary GH mRNA expression was found, the hypothalamic expression of GHRH and somatostatin mRNA was reduced in poorly-controlled diabetic rats and returned to control values with normalisation of plasma glucose concentrations (P<0.0001 and P<0.002, respectively). Somatostatin mRNA expression was reduced only in the central portion of the periventricular nucleus, with no change being seen in the other areas of the periventricular nucleus or in the arcuate, suprachiasmatic or paraventricular nuclei. A significant decline in GHRH mRNA expression was observed in both the arcuate nucleus and ventromedial hypothalamus. Anterior pituitary GHR mRNA expression was significantly reduced in both well and poorly-controlled diabetic rats, while there was no change in the hypothalamus. To examine whether the evolution time of the diabetes influences these parameters, in a subsequent experiment, diabetic rats received no insulin for 2 months. A significant decline in GHRH and somatostatin mRNA expression was also observed in these rats. In addition, pituitary GH mRNA expression declined significantly in long-term diabetic rats. These results demonstrate that: (1) the expression of both GHRH and somatostatin declines specifically in anatomical areas involved in anterior pituitary hormone control; (2) GHR mRNA expression is decreased in the pituitary of diabetic rats, but not in the hypothalamus, and does not return to control values with normalisation of mean blood glucose concentrations; and (3) the evolution time of the diabetes is important for detecting some changes, including the decrease in pituitary GH mRNA expression.