The pontine nuclei form the key relay nuclei in the cerebropontocerebellar pathway. Although a great deal of information is available regarding the anatomy of this region, the identity of the neurotransmitter(s) contained in the neurons of the pontine gray are not known. The aim of the present investigation is to utilize immunohistochemical techniques to determine whether glutamate, a putative excitatory transmitter, and the enzymes responsible for its metabolism, are found in pontine neurons. Both glutaminase, an enzyme which converts glutamine to glutamate, and aspartate aminotransferase, an enzyme which is involved in the interconversion between glutamate and aspartate, have been proposed to be markers of neurons which use excitatory amino acids as neurotransmitters. The present study utilizes a monoclonal antibody against carbodiimide-fixed glutamate and polyclonal antisera against glutaminase and aspartate aminotransferase in conjunction with the indirect peroxidase technique or the peroxidase-labeled biotin-avidin procedure to localize glutamatergic neurons in the pontine nuclei of the rat. Numerous neurons in all subdivisions of the pontine nuclei were found to contain carbodiimide-fixed glutamate-like immunoreactivity, glutaminase-like immunoreactivity or aspartate aminotransferase-like immunoreactivity. Horseradish peroxidase was injected into the cerebellum of four rats for use with a combined retrograde transport-immunohistochemical procedure. Double-labeled neurons were observed in all subdivisions of the pontine nuclei, indicating that pontine neurons which contain glutamate-like immunoreactivity project to the cerebellum. Based on the hypothesis that increased levels of glutamate, glutaminase and aspartate aminotransferase reflect a transmitter role for glutamate, the present data raise the possibility that glutamate may be a major neurotransmitter of pontocerebellar fibers.