The cellular distribution of the type 3 serotonin receptor (5HT3R) in the rat brain was established immunocytochemically by using a polyclonal antibody raised against a synthetic peptide from the deduced amino-acid sequence of the cloned 5HT3R. The 5HT3R-immunoreactive neurons were found in the forebrain, brainstem, and spinal cord, but within each region, the intensity of the immunoreactivity differed considerably. Within the forebrain, intensely immunoreactive cells were found in layers II-III of the neocortex, anterior olfactory nucleus, hippocampal formation, and amygdala. A few strongly immunoreactive neurons were consistently observed in the caudate putamen, and moderately or weakly labeled neurons were occasionally found in the nucleus accumbens. Within the brainstem, intensely labeled neurons were found in the trigeminal motor (V) and facial (VII) nuclei. Immunostained neurons were detected in the dorsal and the ventral horn of the spinal cord. These results reveal that the 5HT3R-immunoreactive neurons are broadly distributed throughout the rat brain and spinal cord, and suggest that this receptor can subserve significant participation in central nervous system neurotransmission.