Terminal arborizations expressing nerve growth factor receptor (NGF-R) have been detected with immunohistochemistry in the reticular thalamic nucleus of neonate, adult and aged rats. Intracerebroventricular administration of nerve growth factor (NGF) resulted in a dramatic increase in NGF-R immunoreactivity throughout the lifespan. This effect was paralleled by a concomitant increase in NGF-R immunopositivity in the neurons of the basal forebrain, which was here demonstrated also in aged animals, thus indicating that the NGF-R immunoreactivity within the reticular thalamic nucleus derives in all likelihood from cholinergic neuronal cell bodies of the basal forebrain. Our results demonstrate a prominent ability of NGF to up-regulate its receptors within fibres innervating the reticular thalamic nucleus, and show that this up-regulation of NGF-R is maintained throughout the lifetime. Altogether this indicates that the reticular thalamic nucleus may represent a new, important site of action of endogenous NGF or NGF-like molecules within the brain. In view of the crucial role played by the reticular thalamic nucleus in gating thalamocortical information, the autoregulation of NGF-R in this structure may have important concomitants in both physiological and pathological conditions.