Bombesin receptor subtype 3 (BRS-3) is an orphan G-protein coupled receptor that shares between 47 and 51% homology with other known bombesin receptors. The natural ligand for BRS-3 is currently unknown and little is known about the mechanisms regulating BRS-3 gene expression. Unlike other mammalian bombesin receptors that have been shown to be predominantly expressed in the CNS and gastrointestinal tract, expression of the BRS-3 receptor in the rat brain has previously not been observed. To gain further understanding of the biology of BRS-3, we have studied the distribution of BRS-3 mRNA and protein in the rat CNS. The mRNA expression pattern was studied using reverse transcription followed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Using immunohistological techniques, the distribution of BRS-3 protein in the rat brain was investigated using a rabbit affinity-purified polyclonal antiserum raised against an N-terminal peptide. The BRS-3 receptor was found to be widely expressed in the rat brain at both mRNA and protein levels. Particularly strong immunosignals were observed in the cerebral cortex, hippocampal formation, hypothalamus and thalamus. Other regions of the brain such as the basal ganglia, midbrain and reticular formation were also immunopositive for BRS-3. In conclusion, our neuroanatomical data provide evidence that BRS-3 is as widely expressed in the rat brain as other bombesin-like peptide receptors and suggest that this receptor may also have important roles in the CNS, mediating the functions of a so far unidentified ligand.