Using a quantitative in vitro autoradiographic approach, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) binding site densities were compared in the post-mortem hypothalamus of human neonate/infant and adult. The densities were similar during development in most of the hypothalamic nuclei and areas examined underlying the stability of 125I-VIP binding sites in the post-mortem hypothalamus of young and adult individuals. However, the ventral part of the medial preoptic area, the medial, lateral, and supramammillary nuclei were characterized by an increase of 125I-VIP binding with age. In young and adult individuals, the highest densities of hypothalamic 125I-VIP binding sites were detected in the supraoptic and infundibular nuclei; the ependyma; the organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis; the horizontal limb of the diagonal band of Broca; the ventral part of the medial preoptic area (in adult); the suprachiasmatic, paraventricular, and periventricular nuclei; and the medial and lateral mammillary nuclei in adult. Moderate densities were found in the vertical limb of the diagonal band of Broca, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, the ventral part of the medial preoptic area in neonate/infant, the medial and lateral mammillary nuclei in neonate/infant, the supramammillary nucleus in adult, the dorsal hypothalamic area, and the ventromedial nucleus. Low to moderate binding site densities were observed in the other hypothalamic regions of young or adult individuals. The nonspecific binding ranged from 15% of the total binding in the anterior hypothalamus to 20% in the mediobasal and posterior hypothalamic levels. Taken together, these results provide evidence for a large distribution of VIP binding sites in neonate/infant and adult human hypothalamus suggesting the implication of VIP in the development of this brain structure and the maintenance of its various functions.