Central catecholamine (CA) neurons in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) and paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVN) were studied in Wistar rats that had been unilaterally nephrectomized. The experimental animals were then treated with deoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA) and salt water. The control animals were treated with the vehicle and tap water. Blood pressure of animals 4 weeks after DOCA/salt treatment was significantly elevated when compared to control rats. Morphologically, CA terminals showed no noticeable changes in the DOCA/salt hypertensive rats. Furthermore, the density of CA terminals either in the NTS or in the PVN of the DOCA/salt hypertensive rats was not statistically different from that of normotensive controls, suggesting that salt does not cause lesions or destruction of CA terminals. However, an extensive electron-microscopic morphometric analysis indicated that there was an enhancement of CA synaptogenesis (expressed by increased synaptic frequency among all CA boutons labeled with 5-hydroxydopamine) in the PVN, but not in the NTS of DOCA/salt hypertensive rats. In addition, the high-performance liquid chromatography revealed decreased CA contents in the PVN, but not in the NTS, of DOCA/salt hypertensive animals. Since synapses are primary sites for neurotransmitter release, the above results collectively suggest that more CA synapses formed in the PVN may reflect a net CA release from CA terminals resulting in the decreased CA content in the axonal terminals. Such an increased CA release and enhanced CA synaptogenesis may consequently enhance CA function in the PVN of hypertensive rats 4 weeks after DOCA/salt treatment, and relate to the development and/or maintenance of hypertension in the DOCA/salt rats.