Triple-labelling immunofluorescence and retrograde axonal tracing with fluorescent dyes have been combined to identify and characterize the neuropeptide content of vasoconstrictor, vasodilator and pilomotor neurons in the lumbar sympathetic ganglia of guinea-pigs. Postganglionic noradrenergic pilomotor neurons lacked immunoreactivity to neuropeptide Y and comprised up to about 30% of postganglionic neurons. Most post-ganglionic noradrenergic neurons that contained neuropeptide Y immunoreactivity were likely to be vasoconstrictor neurons, although some noradrenergic neurons containing neuropeptide Y projected to pelvic viscera. Vasoconstrictor neurons comprised up to about 60% of postganglionic neurons. About 15% of postganglionic neurons were non-noradrenergic and contained immunoreactivity to vasoactive intestinal peptide, neuropeptide Y and dynorphin. They mostly innervated blood vessels supplying skeletal muscles and were likely to be vasodilator neurons. Endings of presumed preganglionic neurons containing immunoreactivity to substance P were exclusively associated with vasodilator neurons. Conversely, presumed preganglionic endings containing immunoreactivity to calcitonin gene-related peptide were exclusively associated with vasoconstrictor neurons, although not all vasoconstrictor neurons had such endings associated with them. Presumed preganglionic terminals containing immunoreactivity to enkephalin were associated with some postganglionic neurons in each functional class. These results show that preganglionic and postganglionic sympathetic neurons lying in different functional pathways can be distinguished by their neuropeptide content as well as their projections. The identification of neurochemically distinct functional pathways begins to explain how the sympathetic nervous system is organized to allow the precise control of discrete target tissues.