Pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) is a novel hypothalamic peptide consisting of 38 amino acids (PACAP1-38) with a potent stimulatory action on adenylate-cyclase in rat pituitary. The presence of PACAP-like immunoreactivity in human brain was studied by radioimmunoassay. Co-localization of PACAP with arginine vasopressin and oxytocin was investigated by immunocytochemistry in the human hypothalamus. Immunoreactive PACAP was detected in all regions of human brain (cortex, thalamus, hypothalamus, pons and hemisphere of cerebellum) with the highest levels found in the hypothalamus (8.5±1.9 pmol/g wet weight, n=w, mean±S.E.M.). High performance liquid chromatography of the human hypothalamic ex approximately 50% of the immunoreactive PACAP was eluted in the position of PACAP1-38. Immunocytochemical studies showed the presence of PACAP immunoreactive neurons in the paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei of human hypothalamus. PACAP co-localized with arginine vasopressin in magnocellular cells of these nuclei. These findings suggest that PACAP1-38 plays important physiological roles in the human hypothalamus.