Recently, the description of glucokinase mRNA in certain neuroendocrine cells has opened new ways to characterize this enzyme in the rat brain. In this study, we found glucokinase mRNA and a similar RNA splicing pattern of the glucokinase gene product in rat hypothalamus and pancreatic islets; the mRNA that codes for B1 isoform was the most abundant, with minor amounts of those coding for the B2, P1, P2, P1/B2, and P2/B2 isoforms. Glucokinase gene expression in rat brain gave rise to a protein of 52 kDa with a high apparent Km for glucose and no product inhibition by glucose 6-phosphate, with a contribution to the total glucose phosphorylating activity of between 40 and 14%; the hypothalamus and cerebral cortex were the regions of maximal activity. Low and high Km hexokinases were characterized by several criteria. Also, using RT-PCR analysis we found a glucokinase regulatory protein mRNA similar to that previously reported in liver. These findings indicate that the glucokinase present in rat brain should facilitate the adaptation of this organ to fluctuations in blood glucose concentrations, and the expression of glucokinase and GLUT-2 in the same hypothalamic neurons suggests a role in glucose sensing.