The distribution of several peptides, corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), neurotensin (NT), enkephalin (ENK), vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP), peptide histidine isoleucine (PHI), cholecystokinin (CCK), thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) and galanin (GAL) was studied in detail with immunohistochemistry in the various subdivisions of the parvocellular part of the rat hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN). Using a double-staining method and elution-restaining technique, the coexistence of CRF- and NT-like immunoreactivities (LI) with other neuropeptides was analyzed. Our results indicate that coexistence of two or more peptides in the PVN is common, and revealed that about 30% of the CRF neurons contain NT-LI and about 20% ENK-LI, whereas other peptides only occur in small fractions of the CRF cells. Thus, it seems possible to define three major subpopulations of CRF neurons, one containing NT-LI, another one containing ENK-LI and a third one apparently lacking these peptides. Conversely, about 60% of both NT- and ENK-immunoreactive neurons lacked CRF-LI. A large proportion of the small population of VIP/PHI neurons contained NT-LI. TRH neurons represented a neuron population completely distinct from the CRF neurons. Also, it did not seem to contain any of the other peptides studied with the rare exception of ENK-LI. Neuropeptides present in the PVN and presumably in nerve fibers of the external layer of the median eminence may participate in the control of the anterior pituitary hormone secretion. Whereas the role of CRF and TRH is well established, the physiological role of the other peptides studied here is still unclear.