Following systemic injection, several different dyes and markers are found to accumulate rapidly in cells in the arcuate nucleus and median eminence, and the capillaries in this region appear specialised for exchange of molecules. The present study used hydroxystilbamidine (FluoroGold equivalent) to identify cells that take up molecules from the circulation in these regions; 2–6 h following injection, uptake was seen in the external and intermediate zones of the median eminence and the adjacent ventral part of the arcuate nucleus, but not in other regions of the hypothalamus. The labelled cells were small; double-labelling experiments revealed that they expressed glial fibrillary acid protein (GFAP), but not NeuN, Agouti-related protein (AgRP) or β-endorphin. They had the morphology of astrocytes and were readily distinguished from tanycytes by staining for vimentin. Many of these labelled astrocytes also expressed leptin receptors and neuropeptide Y Y1 receptors. The surrounding neurons that expressed these receptors did not take up this dye. This demonstrates that astrocytes take up molecules from the circulation in the median eminence and adjacent arcuate nucleus, and may have a significant signalling role in regulation of food intake. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.