Double-label immunohistochemistry was employed to establish whether immunoreactivity for the beta subtype of the oestrogen receptor (ER beta-IR) is present in gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH)-containing cells. In the immortalized GnRH cell line, GT1-7, almost all nuclei were immunoreactive for ER beta. In the preoptic area of ovariectomized rats, more than one-half of the GnRH neurones (52.0-63.5%) contained ER beta-IR within the nucleus; a smaller proportion of these neurones (5-10%) displayed a particularly intense nuclear signal for ER beta. The presence of ER beta-IR in the nuclei of GT1-7 cells and GnRH neurones is consistent with recent reports of ER beta mRNA in these cells. Oestrogen treatment reduced the percentage of GnRH neurones with detectable ER beta-IR. The range of signal intensity for ER beta and the incidence of the ER beta signal in GnRH neurones were comparable following double-label immunohistochemistry involving either bright field or fluorescent techniques. These findings raise the possibility that ER beta receptors mediate direct effects of oestrogen on GnRH neurones.