The chemokine receptor, CXCR4, plays an essential role in guiding neural development of the CNS. Its natural agonist, CXCL12 [or stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1)], normally is derived from stromal cells, but is also produced by damaged and virus-infected neurons and glia. Pathologically, this receptor is critical to the proliferation of the HIV virus and initiation of metastatic cell growth in the brain. Anorexia, nausea and failed autonomic regulation of gastrointestinal (GI) function cause morbidity and contribute to the mortality associated with these disease states. Our previous work on the peripheral cytokine, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, demonstrated that similar morbidity factors involving GI dysfunction are attributable to agonist action on neural circuit elements of the dorsal vagal complex (DVC) of the hindbrain. The DVC includes vagal afferent terminations in the solitary nucleus, neurons in the solitary nucleus (NST) and area postrema, and visceral efferent motor neurons in the dorsal motor nucleus (DMN) that are responsible for the neural regulation of digestive functions from the oral cavity to the transverse colon. Immunohistochemical techniques demonstrate a dense concentration of CXCR4 receptors on neurons throughout the DVC and the hypoglossal nucleus. CXCR4-immunoreactivity is also intense on microglia within the DVC, though not on the astrocytes. Physiological studies show that nanoinjection of SDF-1 into the DVC produces a significant reduction in gastric motility in parallel with an elevation in the numbers of cFOS-activated neurons in the NST and DMN. These results suggest that this chemokine receptor may contribute to autonomically mediated pathophysiological events associated with CNS metastasis and infection.