The central nucleus of the amygdala (ACe) in the rat sends a considerable projection to, and receives projections from, the parabrachial nucleus (PB) and the dorsal vagal complex (DVC; the nucleus of the solitary tract and the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve). In each part of this 'triangle', immunohistochemical staining for the following peptides has been observed in perikarya and fibers: neurotensin, somatostatin, substance-P, Leu-enkephalin and corticotropin-releasing factor. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether any of these peptides are involved in projections to the brainstem from the ACe, and to characterize the distribution of each cell type in the ACe. The results of double retrograde tracing studies indicate that most of the ACe neurons projecting to the PB and DVC are present in the medial part of ACe (ACem), and that many of them project to both the 1 B and the DVC. The combined use of immunohistochemistry with a retrograde fluorescent tracer, True Blue, indicated that the peptide-containing perikarya are found predominantly in the lateral part of ACe (ACe1), and that only a small proportion of neurotensin, somatostatin and corticotropin-releasing factor-stained neurons contained True Blue after injections into the PB or the DVC. The results suggest that most of the fibers in the descending projection from the ACe to the brainstem do not contain the peptides examined here.