Cocaine and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) peptides are suggested to play a role in several physiological processes including feeding, reward, neuroendocrine modulation, and the stress response. Although some studies implicate the modulation of CART peptide expression by glucocorticoids, direct evidence relating CART to the stress response is limited. The present study was undertaken to evaluate the possible involvement of CART peptides during acute stress in male and female rats. Forced swim was used as the stress procedure. Following stress, serum adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and corticosterone (CORT) levels were determined, and CART immunocytochemistry was performed in the paraventricular (PVN) and arcuate (ARC) nuclei of the hypothalamus. Our results depict, the following changes: (1) Serum ACTH and CORT levels were increased by stress and CORT levels were higher in female rats than males. (2) Stress modulated the number of CART expressing neurons. The degree and direction of this modulation varied according to the hypothalamic region and the sex of the subject. Forced swim stress increased CART peptide expression significantly in the PVN of female rats. In males, although there was a tendency for an increase in CART-immunoreactive cells by forced swim stress, the difference was not statistically significant. In the ARC nucleus, forced swim stress did not affect CART peptide expression in either sex. Our results suggest differential and sexually dimorphic modulation of CART expression in the PVN and ARC by forced swim stress.