The central nervous system, particularly the hypothalamus, is intimately involved in the coordination of various aspects of the inflammatory response, including the generation of fever. We used intravenous injections of bacterial cell wall lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 5 or 125 micrograms/kg) to stimulate the acute phase response and mapped the resultant distribution of Fos-like immunoreactivity in the rat brain. In addition, we compared the patterns of Fos distribution with the thermoregulatory responses elicited by the LPS. Administration of LPS resulted in a dose- and time-dependent pattern of Fos-like immunoreactivity throughout the rat brain consistent with a coordinated autonomic, endocrine, and behavioral response to the LPS challenge that was most pronounced 2 hours following injection. Specifically, Fos-like immunoreactivity was observed in key autonomic regulatory nuclear groups, including the insular and prelimbic cortices, paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus, parabrachial nucleus, nucleus of the solitary tract, and the rostral and caudal levels of the ventrolateral medulla. In addition, a significant sustained elevation of Fos-like immunoreactivity was observed in a cell group adjacent to the organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis, which we termed the ventromedial preoptic area. This sustained elevation of Fos-like immunoreactivity coupled with the alterations in body temperature elicited by LPS leads us to hypothesize that the ventromedial preoptic area may be a key site for the initiation of fever during endotoxemia.