Protein kinase C (PKC) consists of a family of different subtypes encoded by different PKC genes. We investigated the distribution of PKC beta 1 and PKC beta 2 in the visual system of the adult cat by in situ hybridization using oligonucleotide probes complementary to the PKC beta 1 and PKC beta 2 mRNAs, two splicing variants of the same gene transcript. In the primary visual cortex PKC beta 1 and PKC beta 2 were both present. The laminar distribution patterns found for the two PKC subtypes were identical. A remarkable finding was the difference between the laminar distribution of the PKC beta s in areas 17 and 18 when compared with area 19. In all three areas the highest expression levels were found in layer VI, moderately high levels were found in layers II, III and V, while layer I was devoid of signal. In area 17 and 18 layer IV stood out by its low PKC beta signal. In sharp contrast, layer IV of area 19 was indiscernible from the superficial layers because of an evenly high signal. In the dLGN of the adult cat PKC beta 1 and PKC beta 2 mRNAs were distributed rather homogeneously over the different layers, but the expression levels for PKC beta 1 were clearly higher than those for PKC beta 2.