The rat peripheral cannabinoid receptor (rCB2) was cloned from a Sprague-Dawley rat spleen cDNA library and when translated, encodes a protein of 410 amino acids. Alignment of rCB2 with mouse (mCB2) and human (hCB2) peripheral cannabinoid receptors reveals a high degree of homology except in the carboxy terminus where rCB2 is 50 and 63 residues longer than hCB2 and mCB2, respectively. PCR screening and sequencing of rat genomic DNA showed that rCB2 is encoded by three exons interrupted by two introns, one of which is polymorphic and contains a 209 base pair B2 (SINE) element. By Northern hybridization and ribonuclease protection assay (RPA), rCB2 mRNA was detected in rat spleen, testis, thymus and lung but not in rat brain, heart, kidney or liver. Like hCB2 and mCB2 receptors, rCB2 activates mitogen-activated protein kinase when it is stably expressed in Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells. The importance of the carboxy terminus in regulating CB2 receptor desensitization and internalization is well-established. Thus, the profound differences identified in this region of the CB2 receptor between species mandates caution when extrapolating experimental results from non-human models to the effects of chronic CB2 receptor stimulation in humans.