Somatostatin was first identified as a hypothalamic factor which inhibits the release of growth hormone from the anterior pituitary (somatotropin release inhibitory factor, SRIF). Both SRIF and its receptors were subsequently found widely distributed within and outside the nervous system, in the adult as well as in the developing organism. Reflecting this wide distribution, somatostatin has been implicated regulating a diverse array of biological processes. These include body growth, homeostasis, sensory perception, autonomous functions, rate of intestinal absorption, behavior, including cognition and memory, and developmental processes. We produced null mutant mice lacking somatostatin through targeted mutagenesis. The mutant mice are healthy, fertile, and superficially indistinguishable from their heterozygous and wildtype littermates. A 'first round' phenotype screen revealed that mice lacking somatostatin have elevated plasma growth hormone levels, despite normal body size, and have elevated basal plasma corticosterone levels. In order to uncover subtle and unexpected differences, we carried out a systematic behavioral phenotype screen which identified a significant impairment in motor learning revealed when increased demands were made on motor coordination. Motor coordination and motor learning require an intact cerebellum. While somatostatin is virtually absent from the adult cerebellum, the ligand and its receptor(s) are transiently expressed at high levels in the developing cerebellum. This result suggests the functional significance of transient expression of SRIF and its receptors in the development of the cerebellum.