Antisera raised against various synthetic peptide fragments of the pro- somatostatin molecule were used to visualize immunohistochemically the distributions of different pro-somatostatin fragments in the hypothalamus and posterior pituitary of the Mongolian gerbil. To define the nature of the immunoreactive somatostatin-related molecular forms, gel chromatography combined with radioimmunoassays of hypothalamic and posterior pituitary extracts was performed. Within the hypothalamus, only trace amounts of somatostatin-28 and somatostatin-28(1–12) were present, whereas pro-somatostatin(1–76), pro-somatostatin(1–64), and somatostatin-14 peptides were present in equimolar amounts. In contrast, the posterior pituitary lobe contained equal amounts of somatostatin-14, somatostatin-28, and somatostatin-28(1–12) but no pro- somatostatin(1–76), indicating that pro-somatostatin is further processed during the axonal flow to posterior pituitary nerve terminals. The gel chromatographic data were further substantiated by immunohistochemical data. Thus, perikarya containing all of these five immunoreactivities were strictly confined to the periventricular area and parvocellular subset of the paraventricular nucleus. However, the number of somatostatin-28- and somatostatin-28(1–12)-immunoreactive perikarya was approximately 20% of the number of somatostatin-14- and pro-somatostatin(1–64)-immunoreactive cells. In other hypothalamic areas only somatostatin-14 and pro-somatostatin(1–64) immunoreactivities were detectable in cell bodies. These cell bodies were encountered in the organum vasculosum laminae terminalis; the suprachiasmatic, ventromedial, arcuate, perifornical, and posterior hypothalamic nuclei; and the median preoptic and retrochiasmatic areas. In situ hybridization histochemistry revealed that the cellular distribution of pro-somatostatin mRNA corresponds to that of somatostatin-14 and pro-somatostatin immunoreactivity, suggesting that the immunoreactive material observed within the cell bodies is synthetized there and that the differences in density of immunoreactivities may be explained by intracellular processing of pro- somatostatin. Somatostatinergic nerve fibers and terminals in hypothalamic areas and the posterior pituitary lobe were immunoreactive to all of the employed antisera. From the present results, obvious differences between intrahypothalamic and hypothalamo-pituitary somatostatinergic neurons emerge. Within hypothalamic neurons not projecting to the median eminence and the posterior pituitary lobe, pro- somatostatin is posttranslationally processed in the cell body predominantly into pro-somatostatin(1–64) and somatostatin-14. Otherwise, within periventricular neurons projecting to the median eminence and the posterior pituitary lobe, pro-somatostatin is posttranslationally processed during the axonal flow into pro- somatostatin(1–64), somatostatin-14, somatostatin-28, and somatostatin- 28(1–12).