Although glucagonlike immunoreactants (GLIs) are present in the central nervous system of several mammalian species, their structural relationship with pancreatic proglucagon is not defined, and their precise anatomical distribution has not been studied extensively. To obtain further information about the structure and biological significance of brain GLIs, the anatomical distribution of three different antigenic determinants of pancreatic proglucagon--glucagonlike peptide I (GLP-I), glucagon, and glicentin--was mapped in the brain of colchicine-treated rats by immunocytochemistry using the avidin-biotin-peroxidase method. Neuronal cell bodies immunoreactive with antisera specific for GLP-I, glucagon, and glicentin were found only in the caudal medulla oblongata. Within the caudal medulla immunostained cell bodies were found at levels from approximately 0.55 mm rostral to the obex to 0.45 mm caudal to the obex, and were located within the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) and the dorsal (MdD) and ventral (MdV) parts of the medullary reticular nucleus. The NTS contained three times more immunoreactive cell bodies than the MdD and MdV, and these cell bodies were located in the midline, medial, and lateral subnuclei of the caudal third of the NTS. Immunostaining of the same cell bodies in paired adjacent sections incubated with GLP-I and glucagon antisera or glucagon and glicentin antisera provided evidence for coexistence of the three antigens within the same neurons of the NTS. Nerve fibers and terminals immunoreactive with GLP-I, glucagon, and glicentin antisera were widely distributed throughout the rat brain and there was no discernible difference in the distribution of fibers and terminals immunoreactive with each of the three antisera. The highest densities of immunostained fibers and terminals were observed in the hypothalamus, thalamus, and septal regions, and the lowest in the cortex and hindbrain. The localization of neuronal cell bodies containing GLP-I, glucagon, and glicentin within the NTS and the MdD and MdV, and the extensive distribution of immunoreactive fibers and terminals throughout the rat brain suggest a role for these peptides in the integration of autonomic as well as central nervous system functions.