In order to evaluate the responses to osmotic stress of oxytocinergic neurons in vivo, we have studied oxytocin (OXY) and c-fos protein expression in the brain by means of double-immunostaining. C-fos immunoreactivity was detected in a subset of OXY neurons, as well as in other neurons non-immunoreactive for OXY, as early as 90 min after intraperitoneal injection of a hypertonic saline solution. C-fos expression was found in approx. 70% of OXY-immunoreactive neurons in the supraoptic (SON), lateral subcommisural (LSN) and paraventricular (PVN) nuclei, and not in OXY neurons in other hypothalamic areas. The expression of c-fos may be used as a means to map the circuitry by which osmotic stimulation activates OXY-containing neurons, and thus provide further insights into the functions with which OXY may be associated.