Location and distribution of spinal sympathetic preganglionic neurons projecting to the superior cervical ganglion were investigated in a rodent model organism for photoperiodic regulation, the Djungarian hamster (Phodopus sungorus). Upon unilateral injection of Fluoro-Gold into the superior cervical ganglia, retrograde neuronal tracing demonstrated labeled neurons ipsilateral to the injection site. They were seen in spinal segments C8 to Th5 of which the segments Th1 to Th3 contained about 98% of the labeled cells. Neurons were found in the spinal cord predominantly in the intermediolateral nucleus pars principalis and pars funicularis. At the same time, the central autonomic area and the intercalated region contained only very few labeled cells. In the intermediolateral nucleus, cells often were arranged in clusters, of which several were seen in each spinal segment. Selected sections were exposed to antibodies directed against arginine-vasopressin, neuronal nitric oxide synthase, neuropeptide Y, neurotensin, oxytocin or substance P. It was found that about two-thirds of sympathetic preganglionic neurons produced the gaseous neuroactive substance nitric oxide and that few contained small amounts of neuropeptide Y. Fibers of putative supraspinal origin immunopositive for either arginine-vasopressin, neuronal nitric oxide synthase, neuropeptide Y, neurotensin, oxytocin or, in particular, substance P were found in the vicinity of labeled sympathetic preganglionic neurons. These results demonstrate the location of relay neurons for autonomic control of cranial and cardial structures and provide further knowledge on neurochemical properties of sympathetic preganglionic neurons and related structures.