Specific anti-rat 5-hydroxytryptamine1A (serotonin1A) receptor antibodies raised in a rabbit injected with a synthetic peptide corresponding to a highly selective portion of the third intracellular loop of the receptor protein (El Mestikawy et al.  Neurosci. Lett. 118:189-192) were used for immunohistochemical mapping of serotonin1A receptors in the brain and spinal cord of adult rats. The highest density of immunostaining was found in limbic areas (lateral septum, CA1 area of Ammon's horn and dentate gyrus in the hippocampus, and frontal and entorhinal cortices), in the anterior raphe nuclei, and in the interpeduncular nucleus, in agreement with previous autoradiographic studies with selective radioligands showing the enrichment of these regions in serotonin1A receptor binding sites. Serotonin1A receptor-like immunoreactivity was also present, but at a moderate level, in the neocortex, in some thalamic and hypothalamic nuclei, in the nucleus of the solitary tract, in the dorsal tegmentum, in the nucleus of the spinal tract of the trigeminal nerve, and in the superficial layers of the dorsal horn in the spinal cord. In contrast, extrapyramidal areas, including the caudate putamen, the globus pallidus, and the substantia nigra as well as the cerebellum, exhibited very low to no immunostaining by antiserotonin1A receptor antibodies. At the cellular level, both the plasma membrane of neuronal perikarya and fine neuronal processes probably corresponding to dendritic fields were found to bind antiserotonin1A receptor antibodies. Regional differences were noted regarding these two types of immunostaining, because only dendrites bound antibodies within the hippocampus and the lateral septum, whereas both dendrites and neuronal cell bodies were immunoreactive in the medial septum, in the diagonal band of Broca, and in the dorsal and median raphe nuclei. Therefore, differential addressing of serotonin1A receptors could occur from one neuron to another. In general, the distribution and density of serotonin1A receptor-like immunoreactivity in the whole brain and in spinal cord were consistent with the mapping of serotonin1A receptor binding sites and serotonin1A receptor mRNA previously established by immunoautoradiographic and in situ hybridization procedures.