The goal of this study was to determine the origin and transmission pathway of respiratory drive to hypoglossal motoneurons. First we recorded intracellularly from 28 antidromically activated inspiratory hypoglossal motoneurons (resting membrane potential, -50+/-3 mV), and found that injection of chloride ions had no discernible effect on the shape of their membrane potential trajectories. We concluded that the membrane potential trajectories of these hypoglossal motoneurons were determined primarily by inspiratory excitation. To determine the origin of this excitation we cross-correlated the extracellular discharge of medullary inspiratory neurons, including those in the hypoglossal motor nucleus, with the hypoglossal nerve discharge. We found 27 inspiratory neurons within the hypoglossal motor nucleus that were not antidromically activated from the ipsilateral hypoglossal nerve; their cross-correlograms featured either central peaks (1.7+/-0.2 ms) alone (n=14; 39%), or central peaks (1.3+/-0.2 ms) followed by troughs (1.3+/-0.1 ms) at short latencies (1.1+/-0.4 ms) (n=13; 36%), and suggest that these neurons are hypoglossal interneurons. We recorded from 238 inspiratory neurons throughout the rest of the medulla; the cross-correlograms of 19 neurons (8%), located mostly in the lateral tegmental field, displayed narrow half-amplitude peaks (1.0+/-0.1 ms) at short latencies (0.9+/-0.1 ms), which we interpreted as evidence for monosynaptic excitation of hypoglossal motoneurons.We conclude that the respiratory control of hypoglossal motoneurons originates from inspiratory premotor neurons scattered throughout the lateral tegmental field and interneurons within the hypoglossal motor nucleus.