The circadian clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is synchronized by the 24 h, light : dark cycle, and is reset by photic and non-photic cues. The acute effects of light in the SCN include the increase of mRNA levels of the circadian clock gene Per1 and a dramatic reduction of pineal melatonin. Neuropeptide Y (NPY), which appears to mediate the phase-resetting effects of non-photic stimuli, prevents the ability of light, and stimuli that mimic light, to phase shift the circadian clock when injected into the SCN. The purpose of the present study was to determine if NPY inhibits the ability of light to suppress pineal melatonin. Surprisingly, NPY injected into the SCN of hamsters mimicked the effects of light by suppressing pineal melatonin levels. To confirm that NPY inhibited the effects of light on the induction of Per1 mRNA levels, Per1 mRNA levels in the SCN were measured in these same animals. NPY significantly reduced Per1 mRNA levels induced by the light pulse. The suppression of melatonin by NPY appears to be mediated by the same subtype of NPY receptors in the SCN that mediate the modulation of phase shifts. Injection of Y5 receptor agonists mimicked the effects of NPY on pineal melatonin, while injection of a Y2 agonist did not. Thus, these data are the first to demonstrate the paradoxical effects of NPY within the SCN. NPY mimics the effects of light on pineal melatonin and inhibits the effects of light on the induction of Per1 mRNA.