Hydroxyindole O-methyltransferase (HIOMT)-immunoreactive cells and melatonin synthesis were demonstrated in bovine epithalamus (including the pineal gland) with monoclonal antibodies and cRNA probes to HIOMT. The HIOMT-immunoreactive product was present in the cytoplasm of pinealocytes. All identifiable pinealocytes were clearly labeled in the pineal gland. The expression of the HIOMT gene was first identified in pinealocyte cytoplasm by in-situ hybridization (ISH). The distribution of the hybridization-positive cells in the pineal gland was compatible with that revealed by immunocytochemistry using the monoclonal antibody to HIOMT. In addition, HIOMT transcripts were found in the medial habenular nucleus, and the habenular and posterior commissure; they may correspond to S-antigen-immunoreactive cells demonstrated in the same regions of the hamster and the mouse. In these regions, the hybridization-positive cells did not exhibit HIOMT-immunoreactivity; thus, cells devoid of immunoreactivity may synthesize but rapidly transport the newly synthesized proteins. These results indicate (1) that the conversion of N-acetylserotonin into melatonin takes place in the cytoplasm of pinealocytes, (2) that some epithalamic cells in the habenular area may synthesize melatonin, and (3) that melatonin may act as a chemical messenger in centrally directed processes, as shown by using S-antigen immunocytochemistry.