The family of mammalian tachykinin receptors consists of substance P receptor (SPR), neuromedin K receptor (NKR) and substance K receptor (SKR). In this investigation, tissue and regional distributions of the mRNAs for the three rat tachykinin receptors were investigated by blot-hybridization and RNase-protection analyses using the previously cloned receptor cDNAs. SPR mRNA is widely distributed in both the nervous system and peripheral tissues and is expressed abundantly in the hypothalamus and olfactory bulb, as well as in the urinary bladder, salivary glands and small and large intestines. In contrast, NKR mRNA is predominantly expressed in the nervous system, particularly in the cortex, hypothalamus and cerebellum, whereas SKR mRNA expression is restricted to the peripheral tissues, being abundant in the urinary bladder, large intestine, stomach and adrenal gland. Thus, the mRNAs for the three tachykinin receptors show distinct patterns of expression between the nervous system and peripheral tissues. Blot-hybridization analysis in combination with S1 nuclease protection and primer-extension analyses revealed that there are two large forms of SKR mRNA expressed commonly in the peripheral tissues, and two additional small forms of the mRNA expressed specifically in the adrenal gland and eye. These analyses also showed that the multiple forms of SKR mRNA differ in the lengths of the 5' mRNA portions, and that the two small forms of the mRNA, if translated, encode a truncated SKR polypeptide lacking the first two transmembrane domains. This investigation thus provides the comprehensive analysis of the distribution and mode of expression of the mRNAs for the multiple peptide receptors and offers a new basis on which to interpret the diverse functions of multiple tachykinin peptides in the CNS and peripheral tissues.