Functional studies in the rabbit suggest that GABA is an important inhibitory neurotransmitter in the control of cardiovascular, respiratory and neuroendocrine functions by the medulla oblongata. The present work was undertaken to provide a description of the distribution in the rabbit medulla of neurons containing glutamate decarboxylase, an enzyme present in GABA-synthesizing neurons. Combined retrograde axonal transport and immunohistochemical studies were carried out to determine intramedullary and spinal projections of immunopositive neurons located in regions particularly relevant to the interpretation of functional studies. Neurons containing glutamate decarboxylase, putatively GABA-containing neurons, were found in all nuclei of the rabbit medulla with the exception of somatic cranial nerve nuclei and the lateral reticular nucleus. The immunopositive cells were distributed throughout individual nuclei and their morphological appearance was similar to that of neighbouring immunonegative neurons in the nucleus. An exception was encountered in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus where the glutamate decarboxylase-containing neurons belong to a population of small neurons easily distinguished from the larger vagal preganglionic cells. Many immunopositive cells in the raphe nuclei, in the medial reticular formation and in the vestibular nuclei have axonal projections to the spinal cord and presumably represent sources of inhibitory bulbospinal control. Within the medulla there were glutamate decarboxylase-containing neurons in the nucleus tractus solitarius with projections to caudal but not to rostral regions of the ventrolateral medulla. These neurons could provide a GABAergic input to respiratory, cardiovascular and neuroendocrine neurons in the caudal ventrolateral medulla. Immunopositive cells projecting from the caudal to the rostral ventrolateral medulla could form part of the population of inhibitory vasomotor neurons known to be present in the caudal ventrolateral medulla. Some glutamate decarboxylase-containing neurons just medial to the nucleus ambiguous in the rostral medulla, in the region containing the Botzinger group, project to the caudal ventrolateral medulla and could therefore provide an inhibitory input to caudal respiratory cells.