Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) is a brain-enriched mRNA with a protein product(s) that is a candidate brain neurotransmitter. We have developed antisera to CART peptide fragment 106-129 and have demonstrated specific immunoreactivity (IR) at the light microscopic level throughout the brain, spinal cord, and retina. All brain nuclei previously shown to express CART mRNA are now shown to contain CART peptide IR. Although it is premature to define CART peptide(s) as a neurotransmitter(s), the localization found here suggests an involvement of CART in many processes. CART peptide staining in the nucleus accumbens and basolateral amygdala continue to suggest a role in drug-induced reward and reinforcement. Staining in the olfactory bulbs, the cortical barrels, the retina and its projection areas, the thalamic nuclei, the lateral and dorsal horns of the spinal cord, and the nuclei of the solitary tract are compatible with a major role for CART in sensory processing and autonomic regulation. CART peptides appear to colocalize with some classical neurotransmitters and appear to occur in peripheral neurons as well. (C) 1998 Wiley-Liss, Inc.