The objective of this study was to determine the cellular localization of P2Y(2) receptor gene expression in rabbit and primate ocular tissues using the technique of non-isotopic in situ hybridization. Fresh frozen whole eye from a New Zealand White rabbit and whole eye and eyelid from a rhesus macaque were cut into 5 microm thick sections and mounted onto glass slides. In situ hybridization was performed on ocular cryosections using digoxigenin-labeled P2Y(2) receptor riboprobes. Alkaline phosphatase-conjugated anti-digoxigenin antibody was used to localize riboprobe hybridization, which was subsequently visualized by staining with a precipitating alkaline phosphatase substrate. Cytoplasmic staining indicative of antisense riboprobe hybridization to P2Y(2) receptor mRNA was observed in the palpebral and bulbar conjunctival epithelium, including goblet cells, the corneal epithelium, and in meibomian gland sebaceous and ductal cells. Staining was also observed in both layers of the ciliary body epithelium, subcapsular epithelium of the lens, and corneal endothelium. In the posterior eye, staining was observed in various layers of the retina, including ganglion cell, inner nuclear, inner segment and retinal pigment epithelium layers, in the optic nerve head, and in a variety of structures within the choroid. No specific staining of sense riboprobe was seen on any of the ocular structures. These results demonstrate that the P2Y(2) receptor gene is expressed in a variety of ocular cells types and suggest that P2Y(2) receptors are associated with diverse physiological functions throughout the eye.