The interaction of cholinergic and catecholaminergic mechanisms in the mesopontine region has been hypothesized as being critical for the generation and maintenance of active (REM) sleep. To further examine this hypothesis, we sought to determine the pattern of neuronal activation (via c-fos expression) of catecholaminergic and cholinergic neurons in this region during active sleep induced by the pontine microapplication of carbachol (designated as active sleep-carbachol). Accordingly, we used two sets of double-labeling techniques; the first to identify tyrosine hydroxylase-containing neurons (putative catecholaminergic cells) which also express the c-fos protein product Fos, and the second to reveal choline acetyltransferase-containing neurons (putative cholinergic cells) which also express Fos. Compared to control cats, active sleep-carbachol cats exhibited a significantly greater number of Fos-expressing neurons in the dorsolateral region of the pons, which encompasses the locus coeruleus, the lateral pontine reticular formation, the peribrachial nuclei and the latero-dorsal and pedunculo-pontine tegmental nuclei. However, both control and active sleep-carbachol cats exhibited a similar number of catecholaminergic and cholinergic neurons in those regions that expressed Fos (i.e., double-labeled cells). A large number of c-fos-expressing neurons in the active sleep-carbachol cats whose neurotransmitter phenotype was not identified suggests that non-catecholaminergic, non-cholinergic neuronal populations in mesopontine regions are involved in the generation and maintenance of active sleep. The lack of increased c-fos expression in catecholaminergic neurons during active sleep-carbachol confirms and extends previous data that indicate that these cells are silent during active sleep-carbachol and naturally-occurring active sleep. The finding that cholinergic neurons of the dorsolateral pons were not activated either during wakefulness or active sleep-carbachol raises questions regarding the synaptic mechanisms of activation of these cells during these behavioral states.