Cysteamine administration to rats results in a marked depletion of hypothalamic somatostatin-14 (SS14) and a decrease of the potassium-evoked in vitro release of SS14 without a significant change in the content or release of somatostatin-28(1-12)-like immunoreactivity (SS28(1-12)-L1). Furthermore, cysteamine enhances the spontaneous release and markedly potentiates the potassium-evoked release of SS14 in the in vitro slice preparation. However, in vitro-administered cysteamine does not alter the spontaneous or potassium-evoked release of SS28(1-12)-LI. Immunohistochemical visualization of hypothalamic neuronal cell bodies and fibers following cysteamine administration shows a disappearance of the SS14 immunoreactive fibers and cell bodies with no apparent change in the SS28(1-12) immunoreactive fibers and cell bodies. These data suggest that, in rat hypothalamus, selective release of SS14 and SS28(1-12) can occur. The results are discussed in relation to possible sites of storage and release of the somatostatin-related peptides from synaptic nerve terminals.