Abstract Guinea pig atrial whole mount preparations containing the parasympathetic cardiac ganglia were used to establish the expression, distribution and actions of neuropeptide Y (NPY) in atrial tissues. NPY-immunoreactive fibers densely innervated the atrial myocardium and blood vessels. Fibers containing NPY also innervated intrinsic parasympathetic cardiac neurons. Four percent of the cardiac neurons, identified using microtubule associated protein-2 antiserum, were NPY-positive. An endogenous source of NPY was confirmed with reverse transcription PCR which demonstrated the presence of proNPY mRNA. Sixty percent of the parasympathetic cardiac neurons were hyperpolarized by local application of NPY. NPY also decreased the amplitude and duration of the action potential after hyperpolarization in 60% of the neurons and decreased the fast excitatory postsynaptic potential in about 50% of the cells. These observations indicate that NPY is anatomically positioned to directly alter the output of the parasympathetic cardiac ganglia either by hyperpolarizing the cardiac neurons or by decreasing the fast synaptic input which drives individual neurons.