Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) belongs to a family of secreted, extracellular matrix-associated proteins that are involved in the regulation of cellular functions such as adhesion, migration, mitogenesis, differentiation and survival. Recent studies have also suggested the up-regulation of CTGF in response to trauma, scar formation and excitotoxicity in the CNS. To further elucidate the localization and regulation of this molecule in the rat brain we performed in situ hybridization experiments and found a very strong and selective expression of CTGF messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) on the band of layer VII neurons throughout the adult cerebral cortex. Similarly strong neuronal expression was also present in the dorsal endopiriform nucleus, extending rostrally from the ventrocaudal cortical layer VII, and in the deep layers of the olfactory glomeruli and the accessory olfactory nucleus. Double in situ hybridization confirmed selective CTGF mRNA expression on a subpopulation (approximately 35%) of microtubule-associated protein 2 mRNA-positive neurons in the cortical layer VII and the dorsal endopiriform nucleus. The nucleus of lateral olfactory tract showed moderate signal intensity; other parts of the forebrain, mesencephalon and brain stem only revealed a very weak level of CTGF mRNA expression. Non-neuronal expression was rare, considerably weaker than on cortical layer VII neurons, and normally associated with blood vessels. Developmental analysis of CTGF mRNA expression in embryonic and postnatal mouse also showed a moderately late onset at embryonic day 16-18, and confirmed the presence of CTGF mRNA in cortical layer VII in a second rodent species. Interestingly, injury experiments using direct cerebral trauma or injection of excitotoxic kainic acid into rat brain failed to up-regulate CTGF mRNA after injury and during the ensuing period of neuronal cell death, gliosis and neural scar tissue formation. Altogether, the current data suggest a constitutive role of CTGF, particularly in the adult cerebral cortex. In view of the strong ascending projections of subplate neurons into cortical layer 1, this molecule may be involved in the modulation of synaptic input to apical dendrites of pyramidal neurons.