The effect of age on the distribution of NADPH-diaphorase-containing neurones was investigated in the myenteric plexus of ileum and proximal colon of embryonic day-19 rats, as well as in rats at postnatal day 4, 6 months and 26 months. The mean percentage of NADPH-diaphorase-stained neurones per ganglion was established using protein gene product 9.5(protein found in most if not all neurones)-immunostained neurones as 100%. The results revealed that there was a significant relative increase in NADPH-diaphorase-positive neurones with increasing age in the myenteric plexus of proximal colon with nearly all protein gene product 9.5-immunoreactive neurones staining for NADPH-diaphorase in 26-month-old rats. This was in marked contrast with the ileum, where no significant relative increase in NADPH-diaphorase-positive neurones was seen in aged rats. The implications of these findings in relation to programmed cell survival and cell death are discussed.