The hypothalamus plays a major role in the control of energy balance via the coordination of several neuropeptides and their receptors. We used a unique polygenic animal model of obesity, Psammomys obesus, and performed differential display polymerase chain reaction on hypothalamic mRNA samples to identify novel genes involved in obesity. In this study, we describe a novel gene that encodes a small protein we have termed 'beacon.' Beacon mRNA gene expression in the hypothalamus was positively correlated with percentage of body fat. Intracerebroventricular infusion of beacon resulted in a dose-dependent increase in food intake and body weight and an increase in hypothalamic expression of neuropeptide Y (NPY). Simultaneous infusion of beacon and NPY significantly potentiated the orexigenic response and resulted in rapid body weight gain. These data suggest a role for beacon in the regulation of energy balance and body weight homeostasis that may be mediated, at least in part, through the NPY pathway.