The cells of origin and projection fields of the descending afferents to the mammillary nuclei were studied in the rat with retrograde and anterograde transport of wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase. The subiculum projects bilaterally to the entire medial mammillary nucleus (MM) in a topographic fashion along the two axes: 1) the proximal part of the subiculum along the presubiculo-CA1 axis projects to the caudal and lateral regions of the MM whereas the more distal part of the subiculum projects to the medial region; 2) the septal part of the subiculum projects to the caudodorsal region of the MM whereas the more temporal part projects progressively to the more rostroventral regions. The ventral subiculum also projects ipsilaterally to the ventral and lateral margin of the lateral mammillary nucleus (LM). The presubiculum projects bilaterally to the dorsolateral region of the pars posterior of the MM and ipsilaterally to the LM. The infra-limbic cortex projects bilaterally to the rostrodorsal region of the MM, whereas the retrosplenial cortex (areas 29a and 29b) projects bilaterally to the medial region at the midrostrocaudal and middorsoventral levels of the MM. The nucleus of the diagonal band projects bilaterally to the caudomedial region of the MM, whereas the lateral septal nucleus projects bilaterally to the pars mediana and the mammillary fiber capsule. A part of the anterior hypothalamic area ventromedial to the fornix projects predominantly ipsilaterally to the rostroventral part of the MM, whereas other basal forebrain regions such as the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, the medial preoptic and anterior hypothalamic areas, and the area of the tuber cinereum send fibers predominantly ipsilaterally to the mammillary fiber capsule. The results reveal a complex organization of the descending projections to the mammillary nuclei, which may reflect the complex functions of these nuclei within the limbic circuitry.