The cell bodies of hypothalamic secretory neurons are localized in areas protected by the blood-brain barrier (BBB), whereas their axon terminals are localized in the median eminence, which lacks a BBB. This implies a complex barrier system, allowing neurons of the central nervous system to secrete into the blood stream without making the BBB leaky. In the present study, three experimental protocols were applied to clarify certain relevant aspects of the barriers operating in the medial basal hypothalamus of the rat. We established that the milieu of the arcuate nucleus is exposed to both the ventricular and the subarachnoidal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The median eminence milieu, the perivascular space of the portal vessels, and the subarachnoid space appear to be in open communication; also, beta2-tanycytes establish an efficient barrier between the median eminence milieu and the ventricular CSF. Similarly, beta1-tanycytes establish a lateral barrier, separating the intercellular space of the median eminence from that of the arcuate nucleus. We also found that the glucose transporter I (GLUT I), a BBB marker, is localized throughout the whole plasma membrane of beta1-tanycytes, but is missing from beta2-tanycytes. Expression of GLUT I by tanycytes progressively develops during the first postnatal weeks; while the degree of damage of the arcuate nucleus by administration of monosodium glutamate, at different postnatal intervals, parallels that of the GLUT I immunoreactivity of beta1-tanycytes. An explanation is offered for the selective destruction of the arcuate neurons by the parenteral administration of monosodium glutamate to infant rats.