A hybridocytochemical approach has been applied to establish whether the gene for the C/EBP mRNA might be involved in the topographical regulation of gene expression in adult rat liver. To that end the spatial distribution of the mRNA of C/EBP has been compared to that of the mRNAs of glutamine synthetase (GS), phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) and glucokinase (GK) in normal adult livers, in livers from dexamethasone-treated animals and in livers from starved animals refed with glucose for 4 h. In normal rat liver, in situ hybridization with a probe for C/EBP mRNA revealed a low density of apparently homogeneously distributed grains, indicating low levels of C/EBP mRNA. In contrast, the livers of the experimentally-treated animals revealed a zonal distribution of the mRNA of C/EBP with the highest density of grains around the central venules. The dynamics of the pattern of expression of C/EBP mRNA are virtually identical to that of the GK mRNA. These data qualify C/EBP mRNA as a pericentral mRNA and suggest a role for the C/EBP protein in the topographical regulation of the expression of the GK mRNA.