Radioimmunoassay and immunocytochemistry were used to study the distribution of galanin, a novel 29 amino acid porcine intestinal peptide, in the central nervous system of the rat and pig. The pattern of distribution was similar in the two species, with the highest concentrations of galanin-like immunoreactivity found in the neurohypophysis, hypothalamus and sacral spinal cord. Immunocytochemical studies of these regions localized galanin-like immunoreactivity to cell bodies in the paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei of the hypothalamus, to fibres in the pars nervosa and to numerous cell bodies and fibres in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. On both gel and high pressure liquid chromatography, galanin-like immunoreactivity in rat and pig nervous tissue eluted as a single peak in a position similar to purified procine intestinal galanin standard. Surgical and pharmacological manipulations in the rat suggest the presence of galanin in afferent fibres. An increase of galanin-like immunoreactivity was observed in the sacral spinal cord of the rat following thoracic spinal cord transection. Thus galanin-like immunoreactivity in the brain is mainly localized in the hypothalamopituitary region. The decrease of galanin-like immunoreactivity in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, following dorsal rhizotomy and pre-treatment of rats with capsaicin, indicates that many of the fibres, which are of small diameter, may well be derived from spinal sensory neurones.