The chronically increased blood pressure characteristic of essential hypertension represents an insidious and cumulative risk for cardiovascular disease. Essential hypertension is a multifactorial condition, with no known specific aetiology but a strong genetic component. The Spontaneously Hypertensive rat (SHR) shares many characteristics of human essential hypertension, and as such is a commonly used experimental model. The mammalian hypothalamo-neurohypophyseal system (HNS) plays a pivotal role in the regulation of blood pressure, volume and osmolality. In order to better understand the possible role of the HNS in hypertension, we have used microarray analysis to reveal differential regulation of genes in the HNS of the SHR compared to a control normotensive strain, the Wistar Kyoto rat (WKY). These results were validated by quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). One of the genes identified and validated as being downregulated in SHR compared to WKY was that encoding the neuropeptide urocortin (Ucn). Immunohistochemical analyses revealed Ucn to be highly expressed within magnocellular neurons of the PVN and SON, with pronounced localisation in dendritic projections containing oxytocin and vasopressin. When Ucn was overexpressed in the PVN of the SHR by in vivo lentiviral mediated gene transfer, blood pressure was unaffected but there were significant, transient reductions in the VLF spectra of systolic blood pressure consistent with an action on autonomic balance. We suggest that Ucn may act, possibly via dendritic release, to subtly regulate neurohumoral aspects of arterial pressure control.