Orexin A (OX) is a small excitatory neuropeptide hormone that stimulates feeding, wakefulness and energy expenditure via a pair of G-coupled protein receptors, namely orexin receptor-1 (OXR1) and orexin receptor-2 (OXR2). OX-deficient mice are sensitive to obesity despite being hypophagic. The obesogenic effect of OX-deletion is due to brown adipose tissue (BAT) dysfunction, a defect that originates during fetal growth. Brown preadipocytes in OX-null mice display undifferentiated histological appearance and fail to support both diet- and cold-induced thermogenesis. We show that the OXR1-null mice phenocopies the differentiation defect observed in the ligand-null mice indicating that OXR1 relays OX's differentiation and thermogenic function. Consistent with this, OX fails to induce differentiation in cultured OXR1-null preadipocytes. Thus, OX signaling via OXR1 constitutes an important thermoregulatory mechanism that defends against cold and obesity.