Binding levels of [3H]Ro5-4864, a ligand selective for peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptors, are substantially higher in homogenates of the olfactory bulb than in the rest of the brain. Among peripheral tissues evaluated, high levels of [3H]Ro5-4864 binding are found in the nasal epithelium. Drug displacement studies show that these binding sites are pharmacologically of the peripheral type. Their presence in the nasal epithelium and in the olfactory bulb can be demonstrated in several different mammalian species. Autoradiographic studies of murine nose reveal a bipolar staining pattern around the cell bodies of the olfactory receptor cells, suggesting the presence of peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptors on both processes of these bipolar neurons. In the brain a high density of [3H]Ro5-4864 binding sites occurs in the nerve fiber and glomerular layers of the olfactory bulb. Throughout the rest of the brain [3H]Ro5-4864-associated silver grains are diffusely distributed with intense staining over the choroid plexus and along the ependymal linings of the ventricles. Both the distribution and the ontogenic development of the peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptors differ from the central-type receptors. Intranasal irrigation with 5% ZnSO4 results in a 50% reduction of peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptors in the olfactory bulb without affecting the density of central-type benzodiazepine receptors. Thus, [3H]Ro5-4864 binding sites in the olfactory bulb appear in large part to be localized to olfactory nerves which originate in the nasal epithelium.