The regional distribution of adenosine A2 receptors in the rat brain was determined using the A2-selective agonist ligand [3H](2-p-carboxyethyl)phenylamino)-5'-N-carboxamidoadenosine (CGS 21680) by quantitative receptor autoradiography. [3H]CGS 21680 binding was highly localized in the striatal region of the rat brain with the greatest density of binding found in the caudate-putamen, nucleus accumbens and olfactory tubercle. Additionally, lower levels of binding were also found in the globus pallidus. No significant amounts of [3H]CGS 21,680 binding were detected in other brain regions. This localization of brain adenosine A2 receptors was markedly different from the known regional distribution of A1 receptors which are highly concentrated in cerebellum, hippocampus, thalamus and cortex. The present results provide further evidence for a specific contribution of adenosine in the modulation of central neurotransmission.