Urotensin II (UII) is traditionally regarded as a product of the neurosecretory cells in the caudal portion of the spinal cord of jawed fishes. A peptide related to UII has been recently isolated from the frog brain, thereby providing the first evidence that UII is also present in the central nervous system of a tetrapod. In the present study, we have investigated the distribution of UII-immunoreactive elements in the brain and spinal cord of the frog Rana ridibunda by immunofluorescence using an antiserum directed against the conserved cyclic region of the peptide. Two distinct populations of UII-immunoreactive perikarya were visualized. The first group of positive neurons was found in the nucleus hypoglossus of the medulla oblongata, which controls two striated muscles of the tongue. The second population of immunoreactive cell bodies was represented by a subset of motoneurons that were particularly abundant in the caudal region of the cord (34% of the motoneuron population). The telencephalon, diencephalon, mesencephalon, and metencephalon were totally devoid of UII-containing cell bodies but displayed dense networks of UII-immunoreactive fibers, notably in the thalamus, the tectum, the tegmentum, and the granular layer of the cerebellum. In addition, a dense bundle of long varicose processes projecting rostrocaudally was observed coursing along the ventral surface of the brain from the midtelencephalon to the medulla oblongata. Reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography analysis of frog brain, medulla oblongata, and spinal cord extracts revealed that, in all three regions, UII-immunoreactive material eluted as a single peak which exhibited the same retention time as synthetic frog UII. Taken together, these data indicate that UII, in addition to its neuroendocrine functions in fish, is a potential regulatory peptide in the central nervous system of amphibians.