Activation of protein kinase C (PKC) is regulated by dual second messengers; diacylglycerol (DG) produced by receptor mediated hydrolysis of phosphatidylinositol and Ca2+ which is released by inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate (IP3) from intracellular stores in the endoplasmic reticulum. In the mammalian central nervous system, available evidence suggests that PKC plays a prominent role in the processing of neuronal signals and in the short-term or long-term modulation of synaptic transmission. This enzyme is a member of a family consisting of at least eight subspecies, alpha, beta I, beta II, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta and eta. The homologous structure of each subspecies makes difficult resolution of the enzymological properties of the enzyme. The distinct functional roles of PKC subspecies in mammalian tissues have been elucidated by defining the localization of each subspecies. We identified alpha-, beta I-, beta II- and gamma-PKC subspecies in the rat brain by in situ hybridization and by light and electron microscopic immunohistochemistry, using antibodies specific for each subspecies. Most immunoreactions of the alpha, beta I, beta II and gamma subspecies were evident in neurons and there were few, if any, in glial cells. In this article, we summarize known cellular and subcellular localizations of PKC subspecies in mammalian CNS and some aspects of current studies in neuronal functions regulated by this enzyme are discussed.