The distribution of L-glutamate decarboxylase activity (GAD) and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) was investigated in the hypothalamic nuclei and in parts of the substantia nigra in the rat. GAD varied markedly among these areas. The reticular part of the nigra showed the highest activity two-fold higher than any other nucleus. Among the hypothalamic nuclei, a 5-fold difference was found between the poorest and richest nuclei. High GAD was measured in the preoptic, anterior and dorsomedial nuclei. Low activity was found in arcuate and supraoptic nuclei. The lowest GAD activity was measured in the median eminence with only half the activity of the whole brain homogenate. This suggests that GABAergic neurones might not be involved in neuroendocrine regulation at the median eminence level. GABA was determined using the sensitive cycling microassay. The rats were killed by microwaves, procedure which was found to inactivate enzymatic processes within two sec without affecting the level or the distribution of GABA. Postmortem increments during the first 3 min following decapitation ranged up to 5 times the endogenous levels, and were proportional to the GAD activity of the corresponding nucleus. This confirms that GAD is the limiting factor in GABA synthesis and suggests that GABA turnover might be rapid. Endogenous GABA showed a uniform distribution within hypothalamic nuclei and nigra. No relationship appeared between endogenous GABA levels and GAD activities in the various nuclei. These results suggest that while GABA synthesis is likely to occur in non-evenly distributed nerve cells, most GABA may be stored in surrounding cells, presumably glia cells.