In situ hybridization was combined with serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) or tyrosine hydroxylase immunocytochemistry and with Fluoro-Gold retrograde labeling of bulbo-spinal pathways in order to investigate the expression of GAP-43 mRNA in monoamine cell groups of the adult rat brain stem. Consistent with previous reports, GAP-43 mRNA was observed in serotonin and dopamine cell groups in the pons. In addition, GAP-43 expressing cells were observed in all the major monoamine cell groups in the medulla. Thus the B1, B2 and B3 serotonin cell groups all showed high GAP-43 expression in all contained many GAP-43 expressing serotonin cells with spinal cord projections. The A1, A2, A5 and A6 noradrenaline cell groups also showed high GAP-43 expression, although cells with spinal cord projections were largely restricted to the A5 group and A6 subcoeruleus region. In all areas, GAP-43 expressing cells with spinal cord projections were also observed which were not serotonergic or noradrenergic.