The distribution of cell bodies expressing either calbindin D-28k or parvalbumin immunoreactivity in the basal forebrain and midbrain of squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) was studied on contiguous sections incubated with monoclonal antibodies raised against calbindin or parvalbumin. In the nucleus accumbens, medium-sized calbindin-positive neurons formed two cell bridges joining the ventral part of the striatum to the olfactory tubercle, whereas medium-sized parvalbumin-positive cells in the same area were much less numerous and more uniformly distributed. The medial and dorsal septal nuclei contained a small number of elongated calbindin-positive neurons and only a few parvalbumin-immunoreactive cells. In the nucleus of the diagonal band of Broca, calbindin and parvalbumin were found to label two distinct but closely intermingled neuronal populations. In the striatum, medium-sized calbindin-immunoreactive cells occurred in very large numbers and appeared to be confined to the extrastriosomal matrix. Medium-sized, parvalbumin-immunoreactive neurons were also present in the striatum but they were less numerous than the calbindin-positive cells. The calbindin-positive neurons in the dorsal portion of the striatum were less intensely stained than those in the ventral portion, whereas this pattern did not occur for neurons expressing parvalbumin immunoreactivity. At the pallidal level, neurons in both segments were devoid of calbindin but displayed a very strong parvalbumin immunoreactivity. Most of the large neurons of the nucleus basalis of Meynert were strongly calbindin-immunoreactive and many of them invaded dorsally the medullary laminae of the pallidal complex. The neurons of the subthalamic nucleus were markedly enriched with parvalbumin but displayed only light calbindin staining. In the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area complex, calbindin-immunoreactive cells abounded in the ventral tegmental area and in the dorsal tier of the pars compacta of the substantia nigra, but were absent in the ventral tier of the pars compacta and in the entire pars reticulata of the substantia nigra. In contrast, numerous parvalbumin-immunoreactive neurons occurred in the pars reticulata and pars lateralis, but none were found in the pars compacta and ventral tegmental area. These findings reveal that the patterns of calbindin and parvalbumin distribution in primate basal forebrain and midbrain are strikingly complementary, suggesting a synergistic role for these calcium-binding proteins in basal forebrain and midbrain function.