The novel apelin receptor (APJ receptor, APJR) has a restricted expression in the central nervous system suggestive of an involvement in the regulation of body fluid homeostasis. The endogenous ligand for APJR, apelin, is also highly concentrated in regions that are involved in the control of drinking behaviour. While the physiological roles of APJR and apelin are not fully known, apelin has been shown to stimulate drinking behaviour in rats and to have a regulatory effect on vasopressin release from magnocellular neurones of the hypothalamic paraventricular (PVN) and supraoptic (SON) nuclei. To determine the role of APJR in the regulation of water balance, this study examined the effects of osmotic stimulation on the expression of APJR mRNA in the magnocellular PVN (mPVN) and SON of salt-loaded and water-deprived rats. Intake of 2% NaCl and water deprivation for 48 h induced expression of APJR mRNA in the mPVN and SON. Using dual-label in situ hybridization histochemistry, we also investigated whether APJR is colocalized within vasopressin neurones in control, salt-loaded and water-deprived rats. APJR mRNA was found to colocalize with a small population of vasopressin-containing magnocellular neurones in control and water-deprived rats. Salt-loading resulted in an increased colocalization of APJR and vasopressin mRNAs in the SON. These data verify a role for APJ receptors in body fluid regulation and suggest a role for apelin in the regulation of vasopressin-containing neurones via a local autocrine/paracrine action of the peptide.