The distribution of somatostatin in the rat spinal cord was studied immunohistochemically with particular reference to the localization in the caudal centers that innervate the pelvic organs. For detailed studies of the laminar distribution of somatostatin the combination of immunohistochemistry and acetylcholinesterase enzyme histochemistry was employed. Deafferentation experiments were carried out to shed light on the origin of the somatostatin-containing axons. These experiments showed that the bulk of the spinal somatostatin has a spinal origin. The structures showing somatostatin immunoreactivity formed a distinct and detailed pattern. The marginal layer and particularly the substantia gelatinosa contained a dense immunoreactivity in terminallike structures. Such structures were also found in the reticular nucleus, along the medial border of the dorsal horn, and in the nucleus of the dorsolateral funiculus. In all of these regions somatostatin-positive cell bodies were also observed. In the intermediate gray matter stained terminals were present around the central canal in a varying number. The most prominent stainability was found in the lumbosacral transition zone. Many terminals were also observed in the sacral parasympathetic intermediolateral nucleus. In contrast, very few appeared in the sympathetic nuclei. Immunoreactive somata were present in the surroundings of the central canal at all levels. Moreover, positive neurons were found in the intermediolateral nucleus of the sacral cord. By combined retrograde tracing and immunohistochemistry the existence of somatostatin-containing parasympathetic visceromotoneurons was ascertained. Corresponding to this, somatostatin-positive terminals were seen in the major pelvic ganglion. The ventral horn generally contained few terminals, and the density was particularly low in the motoneuron neuropil. However, a dense somatostatin network was found in the sixth lumbar segment in relation to the neurons in Onuf's nucleus X complex, the nucleus that innervates the small pelvic muscles including the striated sphincters. It is concluded that somatostatin, besides being involved in the processing of sensory input, serves an important motor task, that of taking part in the complex control of the pelvic organs and their associated striated muscles.