After unilateral lesion of the entorhinal cortex, cholinergic septohippocampal fibres are believed to sprout in the denervated outer molecular layer of the rat dentate gyrus. This cholinergic sprouting has been demonstrated by acetylcholinesterase (AChE) histochemistry, a method said selectively to label cholinergic septohippocampal fibres in the hippocampus. However, a recent report has questioned this concept, suggesting that AChE may not be an adequate marker to monitor cholinergic sprouting and that other, non-cholinergic axons sprouting after entorhinal cortex lesion cause the dense AChE-positive band in the denervated outer molecular layer. In order to determine the contribution of cholinergic septohippocampal fibres to the dense AChE band appearing after entorhinal cortex lesion, the neurotoxin 192 IgG-saporin, known to destroy cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain selectively, was used. Rats received bilateral injections of 192 IgG-saporin into the lateral ventricles 3 weeks before entorhinal cortex lesion, simultaneously with entorhinal cortex lesion, or 8 weeks after entorhinal cortex lesion. Immunocytochemistry for choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) and in situ hybridization for ChAT mRNA demonstrated the loss of cholinergic neurons in the medial septum and diagonal band after 192 IgG-saporin treatment. The cholinergic sprouting response in the molecular layer, as visualized with AChE histochemistry, was abolished in all animals treated with immunotoxin. These data indicate that the dense AChE band forming after entorhinal cortex lesion represents the sprouting of cholinergic septohippocampal fibres.