The corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH)-expressing neurons were studied in the hypothalamus and brainstem of individuals who suffered from essential hypertension and had died due to acute myocardial infarction or brain hemorrhage. Healthy normotensive individuals who died in accidents made up the control group. In hypertensive patients we found extremely high expression of CRH in all parts of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (Pa). In addition, CRH neuronal profiles were observed in the caudal hypothalamic area and dorsal parts of the extended amygdala. In the control group, CRH neurons were found only in the Pa and in much smaller numbers than in hypertensive patients. Also, in contrast to the controls, we found in hypertensives a very high number of CRH fibers running from the most rostral part of the Pa to the median eminence and innervating the caudal part of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCh). A quantitative evaluation showed that the area covered by CRH fibers in the SCh of hypertensives was about three times larger than that in the control SCh. Linear regression analysis demonstrated a negative correlation between the area of CRH fibers and the number of vasopressin (VP) or neurotensin (NT) neurons within the SCh. This relationship occurred particularly in hypertensive patients in whose SCh a larger CRH fiber area and a smaller number of VP or NT neurons were observed. We found a few CRH neuronal profiles and fibers in brainstem nuclei that are involved in cardiovascular regulation, but no apparent difference was observed between the control and hypertensive group.