We examined the distribution and fate of cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript peptide (CARTp)(55-102)-immunoreactive (IR) structures in the neonatal and adult rat urinary bladder. Double-labeling studies examining CARTp with tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), or choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) were performed in wholemounts of urothelium or detrusor or cryostat sections of the bladder. In younger animals (postnatal day [P]1, P3), CARTp-IR cell bodies in detrusor smooth muscle were observed in large clusters ( approximately 100 cells/cluster) at the ureteral insertion and along thick bundles of nerve fibers at the bladder base. The total number of CARTp-IR cells was significantly reduced (by five-fold) at P14, and this reduced number persisted into adulthood. The decrease in the number of CARTp-expressing cells was complemented with positive staining for cleaved caspase-3, suggesting that apoptosis contributed to this decrease. At birth (P1), all CARTp-IR cells expressed the neuronal marker Hu. After birth, CARTp was expressed by some neurons (CARTp-IR, Hu-IR) that represent intramural ganglion cells and by cells that lacked a neuronal phenotype (CARTp-IR, Hu-) but did express TH. Neither of these cell populations expressed ChAT immunoreactivity in adult bladder. These cells (CARTp-IR, Hu-, TH-IR) may represent paraganglion or small intensely fluorescent (SIF) cells. The percentage of colocalization of CARTp-IR and nNOS or TH was dependent on postnatal age and showed an inverse relationship. At P1, 67.1 % of CARTp-IR cells expressed nNOS immunoreactivity. Decreased colocalization was observed with increasing postnatal age. In contrast, 19.5% of CARTp-IR cells expressed TH at P1, but colocalization increased with postnatal age. The suburothelial plexus lacked CARTp-IR nerve fibers until P14, when nerve fibers with varicosities were observed in the urethra and bladder neck region. In summary, we demonstrate 1) a decrease in the number of CARTp-IR cells in rat detrusor in early postnatal development; 2) apoptotic events in the bladder during early postnatal development; 3) rostral migration of CARTp-IR cells from the ureteral insertion toward the bladder body during postnatal development; 4) the presence of different populations of CARTp-IR cells, some with and others without a neuronal phenotype; and (5) age-dependent changes in chemical coding of CARTp-IR cells with postnatal development. This study demonstrates that CARTp-IR intramural ganglia and CARTp-IR paraganglion or SIF cells exist in the postnatal and adult rat bladder, although the role of these cell types remains to be determined.