The ovarian hormone relaxin, in addition to its role in pregnancy, exerts an action on the brain to influence oxytocin and vasopressin secretion, water drinking, and cardiovascular function. Intravenous (i.v.) infusion of relaxin causes an acute water drinking response, confirming its role as a dipsogenic hormone. The aim of this study was to determine whether neurones in the lamina terminalis, which project to the hypothalamic paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei, are activated by elevated levels of circulating relaxin in conscious rats. Immunocytochemistry combined with retrograde neuronal tracing with cholera toxin B subunit conjugated to cholera toxin B (CTB-gold) was used to identify populations of neurones responding with elevated cells of Fos protein to i.v. relaxin administration and which project to these specific hypothalamic sites. Neurones exhibiting Fos were present in the outer parts of the subfornical organ (SFO), the dorsal part of the organum vasculosum (OVLT), the supraoptic nucleus and the paraventricular nucleus. These did not occur in control rats with i.v. infusions of isotonic saline. Approximately 90% of neurones concentrated in the outer parts of the SFO and in the dorsal OVLT showed both retrogradely transported CTB-gold and Fos in response to i.v. infusion of relaxin. These data support a role for relaxin acting on the brain to regulate body fluid and electrolyte homeostasis by activating neural pathways subserving water drinking, vasopressin and oxytocin secretion.