A method that allows the concurrent localization of an antigen and a retrogradely transported fluorescent dye (true blue) was used to identify, immunohistochemically, cells in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVH) that project to autonomic centers in the brainstem or in the spinal cord of the adult albino rat. After placing injections of true blue in the dorsal vagal complex or in upper thoracic segments of the spinal cord, series of evenly spaced sections through the PVH were stained with antisera directed against oxytocin, vasopressin, somatostatin, methionine-enkephalin, or leucine-encephalin. The results indicate that both oxytocin- and vasopressin-stained cells in the PVH project to the spinal cord and (or) to the dorsal vagal complex, although about three times as many oxytocin-stained cells were doubly labeled after injections centered in either terminal field. The oxytocin- and vasopressin-stained cells that give rise to these long descending projections were found primarily in caudal part of the parvocellular division of the PVH, where immunoreactive cells were shown to be significantly smaller than oxytocin- and vasopressin-stained cells in parts of the nucleus that project to the posterior pituitary. Small populations of cells in the PVH that cross-react with antisera against somatostatin, leucine-enkephalin, or methionine-enkephalin were also shown to project directly to the region of the dorsal vagal complex and to the spinal cord, and to have a unique distribution within the PVH. Collectively, the total number of doubly labeled cells that were identified in these experiments accounts for only about one-fourth of the total number of PVH neurons with long descending projections, thus suggesting that additional neuroactive substances are contained within these pathways.