Considerable progress is currently being made in elucidating the molecular basis of the circadian (photoneuroendocrine) system by use of transgenic mice generated from the inbred strains C57BL and C3H. As in all other vertebrate species, the pineal organ is an important component of the photoneuroendocrine system in these mouse strains, but very little is known about its morphological and immunocytochemical features. We therefore investigated the pineal organ and the adjacent epithalamic region of adult, 10-, and 5-day-old C57BL and C3H mice for S-antigen, serotonin, and dopamine-ss-hydroxylase (DBH) immunoreactions. In adult animals, the pineal organ was more than 2 times bigger in C3H than in C57BL mice. In younger animals, this difference was already evident, but less pronounced. The S-antigen immunoreactivity was more intense in adult C3H than in C57BL mice. This difference developed with increasing age; it was not yet detectable in 5-day-old animals. The intensity of the serotonin immunoreaction was similar in both strains at all stages investigated. However, the serotonin immunoreaction was more pronounced in adult than in young animals. The relative DBH-immunoreactive area (used as a marker for the sympathetic innervation of the pineal organ) was much bigger in C3H than in C57BL mice; within each strain it remained relatively constant during postnatal development. Adult individuals of both strains contained S-antigen- and serotonin-immunoreactive cells in the habenular complex. Their number increased with age, but they were always more numerous in C3H. In conclusion, the study has shown considerable differences in pineal morphology between C3H and C57BL, which may be related to the well-known differen- ces in melatonin formation between these two strains.