Putative nitric oxide-containing neurons in the rat amygdala were studied using reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate diaphorase histochemistry. All nuclei of the amygdala contained subpopulations of diaphorase-positive neurons, but the staining intensity of different subpopulations varied. Intensely stained neurons exhibited labeling of the cell body and the entire dendritic arborization. The lateral nucleus had the greatest concentration of intensely labeled cells. Many intensely labeled neurons were located along nuclear boundaries and fiber bundles. In addition to neuronal staining, there was a differential staining of the neuropil in different amygdaloid nuclei. In the basolateral and cortical nuclei the diaphorase-positive cells were non-pyramidal neurons that resembled those containing somatostatin and neuropeptide Y. The distribution and neuronal morphology of labeled neurons in the central nucleus and anterior amygdaloid area suggests that diaphorase-positive cells in these areas may be cholinergic. Recent studies have shown that the enzyme responsible for neuronal diaphorase activity is actually the synthetic enzyme for the newly discovered neurotransmitter nitric oxide. Since there is evidence that nitric oxide plays an important role in excitotoxic neuronal degeneration, the neurons identified in the present study may be involved in degenerative diseases of the amygdala.