The neuropeptide somatostatin is widely distributed in the central nervous system and in peripheral tissues and may be involved in the regulation of a number of physiological functions including movement and cognition. Somatostatin may also have a role in the development of the central nervous system, in particular, the cerebellum and spinal cord. Somatostatin induces its actions by interacting with a family of membrane associated receptors. Recently, five somatostatin receptors have been cloned and referred to as SSTR1-SSTR5. The distribution of the expression of the mRNAs for these receptors are distinct but overlapping. Preliminary pharmacological analysis of these receptors may lead to the development of selective ligands at these receptors. These compounds may be useful in identifying the selective functions of these receptor subtypes. Some somatostatin analogues have antiproliferative actions and are used presently to treat carcinoids. Development of subtype selective somatostatin analogues could be helpful in further identifying somatostatin receptor-expressing tumors and in the treatment of cancer. The cloning of these receptors has now opened up the possibility of more clearly investigating the functions of somatostatin in the brain and peripheral tissues and will facilitate the generation of new somatostatin drugs that may be employed for the treatment of a number of diseases.