Antisera directed against unique peptide regions from each of the human brain voltage-gated sodium channel alpha subunits were generated. In immunoblots these were found to be highly specific for the corresponding recombinant polypeptides and to recognise the native holoprotein in human brain membrane preparations. These antisera were used to perform a comparative immunohistochemical distribution analysis of all four brain sodium channel subtypes in selected human CNS regions. Distinct but heterogeneous distribution patterns were observed for each of the alpha subunits. In general, these were complimentary to that previously shown for the corresponding human mRNAs. A high degree of conservation with respect to the distribution found in rat was also evident. The human alpha subunit proteins exhibited distinct subcellular localisation patterns. Types I, III and VI immunoreactivity was predominantly in neuronal cell bodies and proximal processes, whereas type II was concentrated along axons. This is similar to rat brain and suggests the different the sodium channel subtypes have distinct functions which are highly conserved between human and rodents. A notable difference was that the type III protein was detected in all human brain regions examined, unlike in rat brain where expression in adults is very restricted. Also in contrast to rat brain, the human type VI protein was not detected in axons of unmyelinated neurons. These differences may reflect true species variation and could have important implications for understanding the function of the sodium channel subtypes and their roles in human disease.