Previous work has demonstrated that layer V pyramidal cells of primary auditory cortex project directly to the cochlear nucleus. The postsynaptic targets of these centrifugal projections, however, are not known. For the present study, biotinylated dextran amine, an anterograde tracer, was injected into the auditory cortex of rats, and labeled terminals were examined with light and electron microscopy. Labeled corticobulbar axons and terminals in the cochlear nucleus are found almost exclusively in the granule cell domain, and the terminals appear as boutons (1-2 microns in diameter) or as small mossy fiber endings (2-5 microns in diameter). These cortical endings contain round synaptic vesicles and form asymmetric synapses on hairy dendritic profiles, from which thin (0.1 micron in diameter), nonsynaptic "hairs" protrude deep into the labeled endings. These postsynaptic dendrites, which are typical of granule cells, surround and receive synapses from large, unlabeled mossy fiber endings containing round synaptic vesicles and are also postsynaptic to unlabeled axon terminals containing pleomorphic synaptic vesicles. No labeled fibers were observed synapsing on profiles that did not fit the characteristics of granule cell dendrites. We describe a circuit in the auditory system by which ascending information in the cochlear nucleus can be modified directly by descending cortical influences.