Activation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis is initiated by neurosecretory neurons residing within the medial parvicellular part of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN). Despite the potency by which sex steroids operate on HPA and medial parvocellular responses to stress, previous topographic and phenotypic studies suggest that gonadal steroid hormone receptors are scarcely, if at all, expressed by PVN neurons controlling anterior pituitary corticotropes. Guided by the pattern of retrograde accumulation of fluorogold, we used a direct connectional approach to define the distribution of androgen receptors (AR) and estrogen-beta receptors (ER-β) within populations of neurosecretory vs. nonneurosecretory neurons in the PVN. Juxtaposition of AR-immunoreactivity (ir) and ER-β mRNA to the pattern of intravenous fluorogold labeling showed these steroid hormone receptors to be concentrated within portions of the PVN devoid of neurosecretory neurons. Superimposing receptor profiles onto the pattern of spinal retrograde labeling confirmed a selective distribution of AR-ir within autonomic-related cells of the medial parvocellular division, including its dorsal, lateral, and ventral medial components. ER-β mRNA expression was likewise concentrated within regions accumulating spinal tracer, highest within the ventral aspect of the PVN. These results indicate a direct influence of gonadal hormones on preautonomic effector neurons and remain in keeping with an indirect influence of androgens on adrenocorticotropin-regulating neurons in the PVN. J. Comp. Neurol. 499:911–923, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.