Agmatine (decarboxylated L-arginine), an endogenous ligand of imidazoline and α2 adrenoreceptors, is particularly enriched in the rat hypothalamic paraventricular (PVN) and supraoptic (SON) nuclei. The present study utilized light and electron microscopic immunocytochemical methods to determine the distribution and extent of colocalization of agmatine relative to subpopulations of vasopressin- (VP) and oxytocin(OT) producing neurons in PVN and SON nuclei. By light microscopy, agmatine-immunoreactive perikarya were found in both the magnocellular and the parvocellular neuronal subdivisions of PVN and SON. Confocal and electron microscopy revealed that agmatine-immunoreactivity (I) within neuronal perikarya was associated with the nuclear membrane as well as mitochondria, Golgi complexes, endoplasmic reticula, and plasmalemma. Additionally, agmatine-I was identified in both axons and axonal terminals, which were enriched in large dense-core vesicles. Dual and triple immunocytochemical labeling experiments also demonstrated that agmatine coexists with VP or OT in most PVN and SON magnocellular neurons. Combinations of iontophoretic injections of Fluorogold into the dorsomedullary complex with immunocytochemical labeling revealed that many retrogradely labeled neurons in the parvocellular region of the PVN contained agmatine-I and either VP or OT. These findings provide evidence that agmatine may function as a modulator of both hypothalamically mediated neuroendocrine and autonomic responses. © 2001 Academic Press.