Immunocytochemical methods were used to study 28,000 mol. wt calbindin and tachykinin immunoreactivity in the monkey cerebral cortex. Calbindin and tachykinin immunoreactivity give rise to a generally different pattern of staining of cell bodies and terminal-like puncta. However, the staining of long, vertically-oriented bundles of processes--identical to classical double bouquet cell axonal arborizations--is the most prominent feature of the pattern of both calbindin- and tachykinin-immunoreactive staining. These bundles form a widespread and regular columnar system descending from layer II to layers III-V. The bundles are most evident in layer III where, in tangential sections, they have a density of 7-15 bundles/10,000 microns 2 with a center-to-center spacing of 15-30 microns. The distribution of immunoreactive bundles through the cortex is not homogeneous; somatic sensory, auditory, and visual areas display a large number of calbindin-immunoreactive bundles while tachykinin-immunoreactive bundles are only numerous in the auditory areas and in area 18 of the visual cortex. In the motor cortex (area 4) few or no immunoreactive bundles are visualized with either antibody. Correlative light and electron microscope analysis of tachykinin immunoreactive bundles in the primary auditory cortex shows that the tachykinin-positive axons of the bundles form symmetrical synaptic contacts with dendritic shafts (57%) and spines (43%). Frequently, several immunoreactive boutons that arise from the same fiber are seen climbing along the surfaces of vertically-oriented, non-immunoreactive processes which include myelinated and unmyelinated axons and probably glial processes. The same ultrastructural features and a similar synaptic distribution were found in a previous study [DeFelipe et al. (1989) Brain Res. 503, 49-54] of calbindin-positive bundles in the somatic sensory cortex (areas 3a and 1). Despite the virtually identical morphological features of tachykinin- and calbindin-immunoreactive bundles, colocalization studies demonstrate little coexistence of the two antigens in somata and none in the axonal bundles of double bouquet cells. These data suggest that the double bouquet cell is a chemically heterogeneous, but ubiquitous morphological type of cortical interneuron, whose uniquely bundled axonal system, which is probably GABAergic, imposes a fundamental microcolumnar organization upon the cerebral cortex.