EDG receptors are a family of closely related G-protein-coupled receptors, so-called since the first family member to be cloned is encoded by an endothelial differentiation gene. Of the six family members identified, five use lysophospholipids as their endogenous ligands. The sixth receptor, EDG-6, remains an orphan. These receptors activate multiple secondary-messenger pathways involving coupling to Gi, Gq/11, and G12/13 trimeric guanine nucleotide-binding proteins and are thought to play an important role in cell growth, development and maintenance, and cytoskeletal-dependent changes. EDG receptors are expressed in most mammalian cells and tissues, each subtype having a distinct distribution pattern, raising the possibility of tissue-specific biological roles that could be explored in drug-discovery programs. In this study the distribution of EDG-receptor mRNA within the nervous system has been investigated. As seen in peripheral tissues, these receptors appear to be discretely localized within specific brain regions and cell types. For example, EDG-1, -3, -4 receptors are confined to neuronal cells, EDG-2 receptors to white matter tracts, while EDG-5 receptors appear to be expressed in various cell types, including neuronal cells, white matter tracts, and ependymal cells. EDG-6-receptor mRNA was not detected in the nervous system. Speculation as to the role of these receptors in physiological/pathophysiological processes, particularly those involving cell development, proliferation, maintenance, migration, differentiation, plasticity, and apoptosis can be made from such distribution studies. EDG receptors located in brain neuronal cells might, for example, influence apoptosis and be involved in cell rescue following ischemic damage or during the early stages of progressive neurodegenerative diseases. Those restricted to oligodendrocytes might play a crucial role in myelination and offer a potential target in the treatment of demyelinating diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. In order to explore the role of these receptors, it is necessary to identify selective compounds. To this end we have developed an agonist-induced [35S]GTP gamma S binding assay using an HEK cell line expressing a pertussis-toxin-insensitive human-EDG-2-receptor-rat-Gi alpha 1-fusion protein. Such as assay system overcomes the problems associated with the almost ubiquitous responsiveness of mammalian cells to lysophospholipid. This assay lends itself to high throughput application, opening up the possibility of identifying compounds to further probe the therapeutic potential of EDG receptor manipulation.