The immunocytochemical localization of neurons containing the 41 amino acid peptide corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) in the rat brain is described. The detection of CRF-like immunoreactivity in neurons was facilitated by colchicine pretreatment of the rats and by silver intensification of the diaminobenzidine end-product. The presence of immunoreactive CRF in perikarya, neuronal processes, and terminals in all major subdivisions of the rat brain is demonstrated. Aggregates of CRF-immunoreactive perikarya are found in the paraventricular, supraoptic, medial and periventricular preoptic, and premammillary nuclei of the hypothalamus, the bed nuclei of the stria terminalis and of the anterior commissure, the medial septal nucleus, the nucleus accumbens, the central amygdaloid nucleus, the olfactory bulb, the locus ceruleus, the parabrachial nucleus, the superior and inferior colliculus, and the medial vestibular nucleus. A few scattered perikarya with CRF-like immunoreactivity are present along the paraventriculo-infundibular pathway, in the anterior hypothalamus, the cerebral cortex, the hippocampus, and the periaqueductal gray of the mesencephalon and pons. Processes with CRF-like immunoreactivity are present in all of the above areas as well as in the cerebellum. The densest accumulation of CRF-immunoreactive terminals is seen in the external zone of the median eminence, with some immunoreactive CRF also present in the internal zone. The widespread but selective distribution of neurons containing CRF-like immunoreactivity supports the neuroendocrine role of this peptide and suggests that CRF, similarly to other neuropeptides, may also function as a neuromodulator throughout the brain.