Adult rat hypothalamo-pituitary axis and choroid plexus are rich in basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF2) which likely has a role in fluid homeostasis. Towards this end, we characterized the distribution and modulation of FGF2 in the human and rat central nervous system. To ascertain a functional link between arginine vasopressin (AVP) and FGF2, a rat model of chronic dehydration was used to test the hypothesis that FGF2 expression, like that of AVP, is altered by perturbed fluid balance.Immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy were used to examine the distribution of FGF2 and AVP neuropeptides in the normal human brain. In order to assess effects of chronic dehydration, Sprague-Dawley rats were water deprived for 3 days. AVP neuropeptide expression and changes in FGF2 distribution in the brain, neural lobe of the pituitary and kidney were assessed by immunohistochemistry, and western blotting (FGF2 isoforms).In human hypothalamus, FGF2 and AVP were co-localized in the cytoplasm of supraoptic and paraventricular magnocellular neurons and axonal processes. Immunoreactive FGF2 was associated with small granular structures distributed throughout neuronal cytoplasm. Neurohypophysial FGF2 immunostaining was found in axonal processes, pituicytes and Herring bodies. Following chronic dehydration in rats, there was substantially-enhanced FGF2 staining in basement membranes underlying blood vessels, pituicytes and other glia. This accompanied remodeling of extracellular matrix. Western blot data revealed that dehydration increased expression of the hypothalamic FGF2 isoforms of ca. 18, 23 and 24 kDa. In lateral ventricle choroid plexus of dehydrated rats, FGF2 expression was augmented in the epithelium (Ab773 as immunomarker) but reduced interstitially (Ab106 immunostaining).Dehydration altered FGF2 expression patterns in AVP-containing magnocellular neurons and neurohypophysis, as well as in choroid plexus epithelium. This supports the involvement of centrally-synthesized FGF2, putatively coupled to that of AVP, in homeostatic mechanisms that regulate fluid balance.