The effects of neonatal and adult enucleation on the adult pattern of cholinergic inputs to the rat superior colliculus (SC) was analysed. In the superficial layers immunohistochemical labelling revealed that choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) was predominantly confined to single boutons which were almost continuously distributed throughout the rostrocaudal and lateromedial axes. In these layers a higher density of boutons was observed in the stratum zonale (SZ) and lower stratum griseum superficiale (SGSl) than in the upper stratum griseum superficiale (SGS(u)) and stratum opticum (SO). In intermediate collicular layers ChAT-immunostaining was mainly found in axonal profiles which were arranged in a patchy fashion. Neonatal enucleation caused a drastic increase in bouton density in the SZ, SGS(u) and SGSl. The density of boutons was particularly high in the SGS(u), giving the appearance of an almost homogeneous distribution of boutons from the collicular surface down to the upper limit of SO. Visual deafferentiation at the adult stage was followed by an increase in the bouton density exclusively in the SZ. Neonatal enucleation produced a dorsoventral enlargement of the region containing patches of ChAT staining which was slightly greater following adult deafferentiation. The results described here show that after visual deafferentiation an increase in ChAT innervation to superficial and intermediate collicular layers occurs, providing new information regarding plasticity in the visual system. In view of previous data on cholinergic function in the central nervous system, such an increase could compensate for the loss of retinal excitatory input by facilitating neuronal responses in the SC.