Central administration of neuropeptide-Y (NPY) inhibits pituitary LH release in ovariectomized rats and stimulates LH release in intact and ovariectomized rats pretreated with ovarian steroids. Although the precise neural mechanism of this dual effect of NPY is not known, experimental evidence suggests an underlying interaction between hypothalamic NPY and the inhibitory beta-endorphin (beta END) systems in the neuroendocrine regulation of pituitary LH release in the rat. The present study was undertaken to examine the morphological basis of the interaction between these two peptidergic systems in the hypothalamus. Sections of the mediobasal hypothalamus of colchicine-pretreated female rats were double immunostained for NPY and beta END and examined by light and electron microscopy. The light brown diaminobenzidine reaction was used to visualize beta END cells, while NPY neurons were labeled with a dark blue nickel ammonium sulfate-intensified diaminobenzidine reaction. Under the light microscope, a dense network of NPY-immunoreactive axons and axon terminals was observed in close apposition with beta END-immunoreactive neurons throughout the medial basal hypothalamus. Electron microscopic examination revealed that NPY-immunoreactive boutons formed axosomatic and axo-dendritic synaptic connections with beta END cells. A majority of these synaptic membrane specializations appeared asymmetrical [corrected]. In light of the previous evidence of excitatory and inhibitory effects on LH release and the existence of direct synaptic connections between NPY and LHRH neurons in the hypothalamus, the current results imply that the dual effects of NPY on LH secretion may involve modulation of LHRH secretion, both by the direct route and indirectly through the hypothalamic beta END system.