1. Short iontophoretic pulses of acetylcholine (ACh) inhibited almost every spontaneously active cell encountered in the nucleus reticularis thalami of cats anaesthetized with a mixture of halothane, nitrous oxide and oxygen. On 200 cells the mean current needed to eject an effective inhibitory dose of ACh was 67 +/- 2 nA. When the ACh-evoked inhibition was mimicked by gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) or glycine on the same cell, the current required to release ACh was found to be approximately twice as great as that required to release an equally effective dose of GABA or glycine. 2. ACh inhibitions developed with a latency which was very much shorter than that for ACh excitation in cells of the ventrobasal complex. The latency of the ACh-evoked inhibition was as rapid as the onset and offset of the excitation of the same cells glutamate and their inhibition by GABA or glycine. 3. The firing pattern of ACh-inhibited neurones in the nucleus reticularis was characterized by periods of prolonged, high frequency bursts, and their mean firing frequency was 22 Hz. Raster dot displays and interspike interval histograms showed that whereas ACh suppressed the spikes that occurred between bursts much more readily than those that occurred during bursts, all spikes were equally sensitive to the depressant action of GABA and glycine. Large doses of ACh provoked or exaggerated burst activity. 4. ACh-evoked inhibition was extremely sensitive to blockade by short iontophoretic applications of atropine, which had no effect on the inhibitions evoked on the same cell equipotent doses of GABA or glycine. The ACh-evoked inhibitions were also antagonized by dihydro-beta-erythroidine released with slightly larger currents. When tested on the same cell, small iontophoretic applications of picrotoxin and bicuculline methoiodide blocked the inhibition evoked by GABA but had no effect on that evoked by ACh. Iontophoretic strychnine only rarely affected the inhibition evoked by ACh, while readily blocking the inhibition evoked on the same cell by an equipotent dose of glycine. In two cats, intravenous strychnine (1-2 mg/kg) had no effect on the ACh-evoked inhibition, while greatly reducing the sensitivity of the cell under study to glycine. 5. Only four out of forty-eight ACh-inhibted cells tested were inhibited by iontophoretic applications of either guanosine or adenosine 3':5'-phosphate. 6. Cells of the nucleus reticularis have been shown to have an inhibitory action on the thalamic relay cells, which are excited by ACh. It is suggested that the presence of both ACh excited and inhibited cells in different nuclei of the thalamus could be of considerable functional significance in gating sensory transmission through the thalamus.