Shank proteins are scaffolding proteins in the postsynaptic density of excitatory synapses in the mammalian brain. In situ hybridization revealed that Shank1/SSTRIP and Shank2/ProSAP1 mRNAs are widely expressed early in postnatal brain development whereas Shank3/ProSAP2 expression increases during postnatal development especially in the cerebellum and thalamus. Shank1 and Shank3 (but not Shank2) mRNAs are present in the molecular layers of the hippocampus, consistent with a dendritic transcript localization. Shank1 and Shank2 transcripts are detectable in the dendritic fields of Purkinje cells, whereas Shank3 mRNA is restricted to cerebellar granule cells. The appearance of dendritic Shank mRNAs in cerebellar Purkinje cells coincides with the onset of dendrite formation. Expression of reporter transcripts in hippocampal neurons identifies a 200-nucleotide dendritic targeting element (DTE) in the Shank1 mRNA. The widespread presence of Shank mRNAs in dendrites suggests a role for local synthesis of Shanks in response to stimuli that induce alterations in synaptic morphology.