Urocortin is a member of the corticotropin-releasing hormone peptide family and is found in many discrete brain regions. The distinct expression pattern of urocortin suggests that it influences such behaviors as feeding, anxiety and auditory processing. To better define the physiological roles of urocortin, we have generated mice carrying a null mutation of the urocortin gene. Urocortin-deficient mice have normal basal feeding behavior and stress responses, but show heightened anxiety-like behaviors in the elevated plus maze and open-field tests. In addition, hearing is impaired in the mutant mice at the level of the inner ear, suggesting that urocortin is involved in the normal development of cochlear sensory-cell function. These results provide the first example of a function for any peptidergic system in hearing.