The human APJ receptor is a G protein-coupled receptor which functions as an efficient alternative co-receptor for a number of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 and simian immunodeficiency virus strains. We have cloned the rat APJ receptor, which we term B78/apj, and have mapped the mRNA distribution of both the receptor and its natural ligand apelin in rat tissues. Northern blot analysis showed a similar pattern of expression for B78/apj and apelin mRNAs with hybridising transcripts seen in the lung, heart, skeletal muscle, kidney, brain and liver. In situ hybridisation histochemistry studies revealed intense B78/apj gene expression in the parenchyma of the lung, a sub-population of glomeruli in the kidney, the corpora lutea of the ovary and isolated cells of the anterior lobe of the pituitary. B78/apj mRNA had a striking and unique distribution within the central nervous system (CNS) where receptor expression was found in cells within the meninges around the brain, in the posterior magnocellular and medial parvocellular areas of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus and in the supraoptic nucleus. This hypothalamic distribution offers a possible specific role of this receptor in mediating neuroendocrine responses in the CNS.