SUBSTANCE P (SP) modulates the activity of taste-responsive neurons in the gustatory zone of the nucleus of the solitary tract (NST) in the hamster. The distribution of the neurokinin-1 (NK1) receptor (i.e. the SP receptor) was mapped and compared with the distribution of SP immunoreactivity to identify the sites of ligand-receptor interactions. NK1-immunoreactive puncta and somata were located mostly in the rostral lateral, upper half of the rostral central and medial NST subnuclei. These subnuclei also contained intense SP-immunoreactive puncta, and are known to receive substantial inputs via gustatory and somatosensory afferent fibers. The ventral subnucleus, which is involved in visceromotor reflexes accompanying ingestion, contained little NK1 or lighter SP-immuno-reactivity. These findings suggest that SP modulates taste activity destined for the ascending gustatory pathway at the level of the first central synapse in the gustatory pathway.