Group III metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) are selectively activated by L-2-amino-4-phosphonobutyrate (L-AP4), which produces depression of synaptic transmission. The relative contribution of different group III mGluRs to the effects of L-AP4 remains to be clarified. Here, we assessed the distribution of mGluR4 in the rat and mouse brain using affinity-purified antibodies raised against its entire C-terminal domain. The antibodies reacted specifically with mGluR4 and not with other mGluRs in transfected COS 7 cells. No immunoreactivity was detected in brains of mice with gene-targeted deletion of mGluR4. Pre-embedding immunocytochemistry for light and electron microscopy showed the most intense labelling in the cerebellar cortex, basal ganglia, the sensory relay nuclei of the thalamus, and some hippocampal areas. Immunolabelling was most intense in presynaptic active zones. In the basal ganglia, both the direct and indirect striatal output pathways showed immunolabelled terminals forming mostly type II synapses on dendritic shafts. The localisation of mGluR4 on GABAergic terminals of striatal projection neurones suggests a role as a presynaptic heteroreceptor. In the cerebellar cortex and hippocampus, mGluR4 was also localised in terminals establishing type I synapses, where it probably operates as an autoreceptor. In the hippocampus, mGluR4 labelling was prominent in the dentate molecular layer and CA1-3 strata lacunosum moleculare and oriens. Somatodendritic profiles of some stratum oriens/alveus interneurones were richly decorated with mGluR4-labelled axon terminals making either type I or II synapses. This differential localisation suggests a regulation of synaptic transmission via a target cell-dependent synaptic segregation of mGluR4. Our results demonstrate that, like other group III mGluRs, presynaptic mGluR4 is highly enriched in the active zone of boutons innervating specific classes of neurones. In addition, the question of alternatively spliced mGluR4 isoforms is discussed.