The regional distribution and cellular localization of mRNA coding for the serotonin 1C receptor were investigated in tissue sections of mouse and rat brain by in situ hybridization histochemistry. Several 32P-labelled riboprobes derived from mouse genomic clones were used. The serotonin 1C receptor binding sites were visualized autoradiographically and quantified using [3H]mesulergine as ligand, in the presence of spiperone to block serotonin 1C receptors. Strong hybridization signal was observed in the choroid plexus of all brain ventricles. High levels of hybridization were also seen in the anterior olfactory nucleus, pyriform cortex, amygdala, some thalamic nuclei, especially the lateral habenula, the CA3 area of the hippocampal formation, the cingulate cortex, some components of the basal ganglia and associated areas, particularly the nucleus subthalamicus and the substantia nigra. The midbrain and brainstem showed moderate levels of hybridization. The distribution of the serotonin 1C receptor mRNA corresponded well to that of the serotonin 1C receptors. The highest levels of serotonin 1C receptor binding were observed in the choroid plexus. In addition, significant levels of the serotonin 1C receptor binding were seen in the anterior olfactory nucleus, pyriform cortex, nucleus accumbens, ventral aspects of the striatum, paratenial and paracentral thalamic nuclei, amygdaloid body and substantia nigra pars reticulata. The cingulate and retrosplenial cortices as well as the caudal aspects of the hippocampus (CA3) were also labelled. Binding in brainstem and medulla was low and homogeneously distributed. No significant binding was seen in the habenular and subthalamic nuclei. Similar findings were obtained in rat brain. These results demonstrate that, in addition to their enrichment in the choroid plexus, the serotonin 1C receptor mRNA and binding sites are heterogeneously distributed in the rodent brain and thus could be involved in the regulation of many different brain functions. The combination of in situ hybridization histochemistry with receptor autoradiography opens the possibility of examining the regulation of the serotonin 1C receptor synthesis after pharmacological or physiological alterations.