Using a combined technique of immunocytochemistry and [3H]thymidine autoradiography, we have determined the "birth-date" of opioid peptide containing neurons in three hypothalamic nuclei. These include proopiomelanocortin neurons (indicated by ACTH immunoreactivity) in the arcuate nucleus, dynorphin a neurons in the supraoptic nucleus, and [Leu]enkephalin neurons in the periventricular nucleus. Arcuate proopiomelanocortin neurons were born very early in embryonic development, with peak heavy [3H]thymidine nuclear labelling occurring on embryonic day E12. Supraoptic dynorphin A neurons were also labelled relatively early (peak at E13). By contrast, [Leu]enkephalin neurons in the periventricular nucleus exhibited peak heavy nuclear labelling on day E14. The results indicate a differential genesis of these three opioid peptide containing neuronal groups in three different hypothalamic nuclei.