Overconsumption and increased selection of high fat (HF) foods contribute to the development of common obesity. Because the hypothalamic melanocortin (MC) system plays an integral role in the regulation of food intake and dietary choice, we tested the hypothesis that proneness (-P) or resistance (-R) to dietary-induced obesity (DIO) may be due to differences in MC function. We found that prior to developing obesity and while still maintained on chow, acute, central administration of MTII, an MC agonist, produced a greater anorectic response in DIO-P rats than in DIO-R rats. However, after only 5 days of exclusive HF feeding, the DIO-R rats had significantly greater suppression of intake after MTII treatment than they did when maintained on chow. In addition, the DIO-P rats were much less responsive to MTII treatment than the DIO-R rats after only 5 days of the HF diet. In fact, MTII-induced anorexia during HF feeding correlated negatively with body weight gained on the HF diet. These results suggest that the voluntary decrease of HF feeding in DIO-R rats may be mediated by increased endogenous MC signaling, a signal likely compromised in DIO-P rats. Differences in MC regulation may also explain the observed preference for HF over a lower fat food choice in DIO-P rats. Finally, the results indicate that responses to exogenous MC challenge can be used to predict proneness or resistance to DIO. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.