The main source of excitatory drive to the sympathetic preganglionic neurons that control blood pressure is from neurons located in the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM). This monosynaptic input includes adrenergic (C1), peptidergic, and noncatecholaminergic neurons. Some of the cells in this pathway are suspected to be glutamatergic, but conclusive evidence is lacking. In the present study we sought to determine whether these presympathetic neurons express the vesicular glutamate transporter BNPI/VGLUT1 or the closely related gene DNPI, the rat homolog of the mouse vesicular glutamate transporter VGLUT2. Both BNPI/VGLUT1 and DNPI/VGLUT2 mRNAs were detected in the medulla oblongata by in situ hybridization, but only DNPI/VGLUT2 mRNA was present in the RVLM. Moreover, BNPI immunoreactivity was absent from the thoracic spinal cord lateral horn. DNPI/VGLUT2 mRNA was present in many medullary cells retrogradely labeled with Fluoro-Gold from the spinal cord (T2; four rats). Within the RVLM, 79% of the bulbospinal C1 cells contained DNPI/VGLUT2 mRNA. Bulbospinal noradrenergic A5 neurons did not contain DNPI/VGLUT2 mRNA. The RVLM of six unanesthetized rats subjected to 2 hours of hydralazine-induced hypotension contained tenfold more c-Fos-ir DNPI/VGLUT2 neurons than that of six saline-treated controls. c-Fos-ir DNPI/VGLUT2 neurons included C1 and non-C1 neurons (3:2 ratio). In seven barbiturate-anesthetized rats, 16 vasomotor presympathetic neurons were filled with biotinamide and analyzed for the presence of tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity and/or DNPI/VGLUT2 mRNA. Biotinamide-labeled neurons included C1 and non-C1 cells. Most non-C1 (9/10) and C1 presympathetic cells (5/6) contained DNPI/VGLUT2 mRNA. In conclusion, DNPI/VGLUT2 is expressed by most blood pressure-regulating presympathetic cells of the RVLM. The data suggest that these neurons may be glutamatergic and that the C1 adrenergic phenotype is one of several secondary phenotypes that are differentially expressed by subgroups of these cells. J. Comp. Neurol. 444:207–220, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.