In chloralose-urethane anesthetized spinal rats, electrical stimulation of systematically chosen points over the entire caudal brain stem area was carried out to explore the site(s) responsible for vagally mediated bradycardia. A dorsomedial locus including the nucleus dorsalis and the adjacent structures, the nucleus tractus solitarius, the nucleus commissuralis and the area postrema, and a ventrolateral locus around the nucleus ambiguus were found to elicit bradycardia with low threshold and high responsiveness. In another series of experiments, horseradish peroxidase (HRP) was iontophoretically administered through a glass capillary microelectrode into the identified cardiac branch of the vagus nerve of rats in order to localize more precisely the cells of origin of vagal cardioinhibitory fibers within the brain stem. Distribution of the HRP-labeled cells was not confined to one area, but these cells were found within the nucleus dorsalis, the reticular formation surrounding the nucleus ambiguus and an intermediary zone between the two nuclei. Such a pattern of distribution of vagal cardioinhibitory preganglionic cells is discussed in relation to phylogenetic and ontogenetic development of the vagal motor nuclei.