Studies were carried out in anesthetized rats comparing dynamics and pathways of interstitial fluid (ISF) drainage from different regions of brain. Rates of drainage from brain and flow into cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) were estimated from the efflux from brain and influx into CSF of radioiodinated albumin (RISA) following microinjection into caudate nucleus, internal capsule, or midbrain: pathways of flow through the subarachnoid space and into lymph were traced from the distribution of horseradish peroxidase and/or Evans blue-labeled albumin after injection into brain. ISF drainage rates (mul X g brain-1 X min-1) estimated for the three injection sites were 0.18, 0.19, and 0.29, respectively. Flow of ISF into bulk CSF sampled from the cisterna magna accounted for 60-75% of efflux from midbrain but only 10-15% of efflux from caudate nucleus or internal capsule. RISA was concentrated in the subarachnoid space, relative to bulk CSF, in sleeves of adventitial tissue surrounding pericerebral arteries, possibly accounting for the low recovery of isotope from bulk CSF. From the subarachnoid space, some fluid drained via olfactory nerve sheaths to retropharyngeal lymph nodes.