The present study examined the hypothesis that cholinergic neurons in the pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPT) can cause the release of acetylcholine (ACh) in the pontine reticular formation and contribute to respiratory depression. In vivo microdialysis of the gigantocellular tegmental field (FTG) was performed in 10 adult male cats while respiration was being measured. In four intact, unanesthetized cats these measurements were obtained during states of quiet wakefulness and during the rapid eye movement (REM) sleeplike state caused by FTG microinjections of carbachol. The results demonstrate a simultaneous time course of enhanced ACh release in the FTG and respiratory rate depression. In six barbiturate-anesthetized cats similar measurements were obtained while PPT regions containing NADPH-positive neurons were electrically stimulated. PPT stimulation caused increased ACh release in the FTG and caused respiratory rate depression. Together, these findings are consistent with the hypothesis of a causal relationship between ACh release in the FTG and respiratory depression.