Calretinin is a calcium-binding protein related to calbindin-D28k; both are present in different though overlapping sets of neurons in brains of birds and mammals. We describe in detail the pattern of calretinin immunoreactivity in the rat brain. As in chick brain, calretinin immunoreactivity is abundant in various sensory pathways (particularly certain cells and fibres of the cochlear nuclei and olfactory bulb), in the heterogeneous parts of the brainstem and in parts of the hypothalamus. Many primary sensory fibres are strongly positive. Major groups of calretinin-positive neurons also include the thalamic reticular nucleus, triangular septal nucleus, lateral mammillary nucleus and substantia nigra pars compacta. Many other calretinin-positive cells are recognizable as local inhibitory neurons. Calretinin is absent from all but a few cells in the cerebral cortex, and is never found in motor neurons. There are also some distinctive positive structures whose identity is uncertain, notably irregular "shells" of cells and fibres around the thalamus and in the amygdala and an unnamed cell type in the vestibulocerebellum.