An indirect immunohistochemical method in which an avidin-biotinylated horseradish peroxidase complex is bound to the secondary antibody was used to visualize substance P-immunoreactive (SPI) nerves in the rat kidney. Rats were perfused with 2% paraformaldehyde + 0.15% picric acid in 0.1 M phosphate buffer, then transferred to the buffer. After 24-48 h, the kidneys were sectioned with a Vibratome at 200 or 300 micron and incubated in the primary antiserum for 18 h at room temperature. A dense plexus of SPI nerves innervates the rat renal calyx. A small proportion of intrarenal SPI axons innervates interlobular arteries and afferent arterioles, but most perivascular SPI axons terminate on interlobar and arcuate arteries. The densest plexuses are located on segments of interlobar arteries near the hilus of the kidney. Some of these axons probably are nociceptive; others may be chemo- or baroreceptive.