Immunoreactivity to pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide-38 was detected in numerous nerve fibres in layers I and II of the dorsal horn of the rat and some of these fibres extended into the deeper layers of all segments of the spinal cord. Immunoreactivity was also detected in the lateral funiculus projecting into the intermediolateral cell column of the lower cervical and thoracic segments and in the lateral pathway terminating in the intermediate gray area of the lower lumbar and sacral segments. Neurons in the lateral horn area were not immunoreactive nor were the ventral horn motoneurons. In the medulla, numerous immunoreactive fibres were observed in the spinal trigeminal tract and superficial layers of the caudal spinal trigeminal nucleus but few in the interpolar spinal trigeminal nucleus. A prominent immunoreactive nerve bundle emanated from the caudal spinal trigeminal nucleus and projected into the solitary tract. A dense network of immunoreactive neurons and fibres was present in the nucleus raphe obscurus, lateral reticular nucleus and parvocellular lateral reticular nucleus. Immunoreactive fibres could also be detected in the solitary tract and area postrema. Labelled somata were occasionally noted in various subnuclei of the nucleus of the solitary tract and nucleus raphe pallidus. In addition, a small number of positive neurons were detected in an area between the lateral reticular nucleus and inferior olive and near the ventral surface of the medulla (parapyramidal region). A few weakly-labelled cells were occasionally seen in the dorsal motor nucleus of vagus. A population of neurons in the trigeminal, nodose and dorsal root ganglia from all segments of the spinal cord displayed low to intense immunoreactivity. The presence of immunoreactivity in nodose and dorsal root ganglia, dorsal horn, spinal autonomic nuclei, solitary tract and in certain areas of the medulla suggests that this peptide may participate in a variety of sensory and autonomic functions.