Muscarinic cholinergic transmission plays an important role in modulating hippocampal activity and many higher brain functions. Many of the modulatory effects of acetylcholine on hippocampal function result from direct effects in the hippocampus or from actions on the hippocampal afferent neurons. At each site, the differential expression of a family of five distinct but related receptor subtypes governs the nature of the response. The aim of the present study was to identify the subtypes expressed in the hippocampal afferent neurons by combining retrograde tracing with immunocytochemistry. The retrograde tracer, wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase, was injected into the hippocampus unilaterally to label afferent neurons, and was combined with muscarinic (m) acetylcholine (ACh) receptors (mAChRs) with immunocytochemistry to identify the m1-m4 subtypes expressed. The retrogradely labeled cells in the basal forebrain that contribute to the septohippocampal pathway were found to express m2, m3, and, to a lesser extent, m1. Commissural/associational pathway neurons, which were identified by retrogradely labeled cells in the ipsi- and contralateral dentate gyrus, expressed m1, m3, and m4. The retrogradely labeled cells in the entorhinal cortex of the perforant pathway expressed predominantly m1 and m3, with fewer neurons expressing m2 and m4. Raphe-hippocampal cells were found to express m1. Thus, this study provides evidence for the diversity of mAChR subtypes expressed in neurons that project to the hippocampus. The complex modulation by acetylcholine of hippocampal function, therefore, is governed not only by the variety of mAChRs expressed in the hippocampus but also by their differential expression in extrinsic hippocampal afferents.