The catecholaminergic and peptidergic neurons in the area postrema and adjacent portion of the medial nucleus tractus solitarii (mNTS) were characterized by the immunocytochemical localization of the catecholamine synthesizing enzymes tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), dopamine-beta-hydroxylase (DBH) and phenylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase (PNMT) and two neuropeptides, substance P and (Leu5)-enkephalin. The catecholamine synthesizing enzymes TH and DBH, found jointly only in noradrenergic and adrenergic neurons, were localized in cells having a similar morphology and topographical distribution. These cells were located throughout the rostrocaudal and dorsoventral extent of the area postrema, as well as in neurons within the mNTS. The processes showing TH and DBH immunoreactivity appear to form reciprocal connections between the area postrema and mNTS. Phenylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase, the enzymatic marker found only in adrenergic neurons, was detected immunocytochemically in terminals distributed throughout the area postrema and in neuronal perikarya and varicosities within the adjacent mNTS. Like the catecholamine synthesizing enzymes TH and DBH, enkephalin-like immunoreactivity was localized to perikarya, proximal processes and varicose axon terminals within the area postrema and the adjacent mNTS. However, in contrast to the widespread distribution of the enzymes, the enkephalin-like immunoreactivity was localized predominantly along the dorsal and ventrolateral margins of the area postrema. The distribution of substance P immunoreactivity, which was detected only in varicose processes, paralleled the distribution of enkephalin-like immunoreactivity, being predominantly located along the dorsal and ventrolateral margins of the area postrema. Within the mNTS adjacent to the area postrema, substance P immunoreactivity was localized to neuronal perikarya, proximal processes and varicose axon terminals. Based upon the presence of appropriate biosynthetic enzyme markers and neuropeptide localization, these findings suggest that neurons within the area postrema contain noradrenalin and enkephalin and that the afferent axons contain substance P, adrenalin and, probably, noradrenalin.