Vasopressin V1a receptor (V1aR) transcripts were localized in brain, pineal, and superficial brain vascular tissues of adult male rats using hybridization histochemistry and an [35S]riboprobe complementary to the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) encoding the fifth to the midseventh transmembrane regions of the receptor. V1aR mRNA was extensively distributed throughout brain and was expressed in 1) superficial cells of the granule cell layers of the main olfactory bulb, hippocampal dentate gyrus, and cerebellum; 2) numerous anatomically distinct brain nuclei; 3) isolated cells dispersed throughout the central nervous system; 4) cells of the choroid plexus, occasional blood vessels in the olfactory bulb and interpeduncular nucleus, and extraparenchymal intracranial vasculature; and 5) some white matter structures. Numerous cells expressing V1aR transcripts were found in forebrain structures, including primary olfactory (piriform) cortex, the anterior and posterior olfactory nuclei; dorsal, intermediate, and ventral lateral septal nuclei; the septo-fimbrial nucleus and accumbens nucleus; and numerous hypothalamic regions with the most intense hypothalamic labeling in the arcuate, stigmoid, suprachiasmatic, and periventricular nuclei and the lateral hypothalamic area. Cells expressing V1aR transcripts were ubiquitous throughout the midbrain, pontine, and medullary regions. A lower intensity signal was found in cells of the parvocellular paraventricular and anteroventral nucleus of the thalamus, circumventricular organs including the pineal, and the subfornical organ. V1aR transcripts were not generally detected in parenchymal vasculature, but could be found over large blood vessels in the interpeduncular nucleus and medial olfactory bulb; transcripts were commonly detected in perivascular brain cells. V1aR mRNA was abundantly expressed by choroid plexus, endothelial cells of midline blood vessels between the main olfactory bulbs, and superficial vascular tissue on all brain surfaces. These data confirm the presence of the vascular/hepatic-type V1aR gene in brain tissue and document an extensive expression. The distribution of V1aR mRNA suggests that there are at least two types of vasopressin-responsive cells in brain: one type exemplified by lateral septal ara neurons innervated by classical axodendritic/somatic synaptic vasopressinergic terminals and a second, perivascular/vascular type that would facilitate humoral vasopressinergic signaling in the brain.