Binding sites labeled by [3H]p-aminoclonidine ([3H]PAC) were characterized in bovine brain membranes prepared from the ventrolateral medulla, the probable site of the antihypertensive action of clonidine and analogs. Comparison was made with [3H]PAC binding to membranes prepared from frontal cortex, which has been studied extensively. Saturation binding isotherms for [3H]PAC were similar in the two regions, although Bmax values were approximately two-fold lower in ventrolateral medulla relative to frontal cortex. Norepinephrine and other phenylethylamines displaced [3H]PAC from a maximum of 70% of the total sites in the ventrolateral medulla. The remaining 30% were norepinephrine-insensitive, non-adrenoceptor sites which displayed high affinity for imidazole compounds. Ligand selectivity differed markedly between ventrolateral medulla and frontal cortex, since some imidazole compounds which potently inhibited [3H]PAC binding in the ventrolateral medulla had no effect in frontal cortex. Imidazole binding sites may mediate, in part, the hypotensive action of clonidine and other imidazole compounds in the ventrolateral medulla. These sites may also participate in the functions of a putative endogenous clonidine-like substance.