We have investigated the subcellular localization of the peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptor in rat adrenal gland using the high affinity ligand 3H-labeled 1-(2-chlorophenyl)-N-methyl-(1-methylpropyl)-3-isoquinoline carboxamide ([3H]PK11195). The autoradiographic pattern of [3H]PK11195 binding sites in tissue sections of adrenal gland is similar to the histochemical distribution of the mitochondrial marker enzymes, cytochrome oxidase and monoamine oxidase, which are present in high concentrations only in the cortex. Subcellular fractionation studies of homogenates of adrenal gland indicate that the recovery and enrichment of [3H]PK11195 binding sites in the nuclear, mitochondrial, microsomal, and soluble fractions correlate closely with cytochrome oxidase activity, but not with markers for the nuclei, lysosomes, peroxysomes, endoplasmic reticulum, plasma membrane, or cytoplasm, indicating an association of the peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptor with the mitochondrial compartment. Titration of isolated mitochondria with digitonin results in the simultaneous release of the peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptor and of monoamine oxidase, but not cytochrome oxidase, indicating association of the peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptor with the mitochondrial outer membrane. Scatchard analysis and drug displacement studies of the binding of [3H] PK11195 to intact mitochondria and to the outer membrane-enriched digitonin extract further confirm the localization of the peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptor to the mitochondrial outer membrane.