We have determined, by enzyme immunoassay, daily and circadian patterns of the concentrations of three peptides, which are located in the ventrolateral subdivision of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN): vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP), gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP), and neuropeptide Y (NPY). The contents of VIP and GRP, which are synthesized in the SCN, did not show circadian rhythms in constant darkness (DD). Under light-dark (LD) conditions, GRP content increased and VIP content decreased over the course of the light period and then gradually recovered during the dark period. Responsiveness of these peptides to light suggests that VIP and GRP may transmit visual information on duration of illumination. NPY, which is transported from the intergeniculate leaflet of the lateral geniculate body, showed a circadian rhythm with a peak at circadian time 12 hr in DD. This endogenous rhythm was remarkably modulated by photic stimulation. Under LD conditions, the NPY content in the SCN exhibited a bimodal rhythm with peaks at both the light-dark and dark-light transition points. Thus, NPY may convey visual information on the transitions. All these results indicate that the levels of VIP, GRP, and NPY are mainly regulated by light stimulation and suggest that peptides in the ventrolateral SCN are involved in the mediation of photic information to the pacemaker.