In the brain, certain neurons appear to be sensitive to changes in local and/or plasma glucose concentration. The alterations in the electrical activity of these neurons probably depend on the existence of 'glucose sensors', which may be one of the glucose transporters described so far. Because of suitable kinetic properties, we hypothesized that the glucose transporter 2 (GLUT 2) may well constitute one of the cerebral 'glucose sensors'. In this study, it was demonstrated, using the polymerase chain reaction, that GLUT 2 mRNAs are present in a limited number of brain nuclei, including the nucleus tractus solitarius, the motor nucleus of the vagus, the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus, the lateral hypothalamic area, the arcuate nucleus and the olfactory bulbs. These localizations were confirmed by immunocytochemistry, but the cerebral distribution of GLUT 2-like immunoreactivity was far larger than initially expected. Furthermore, electron microscopic observations showed that, within the regions examined, GLUT 2 was localized to a restricted population of astrocytes. The localization of GLUT 2 in regions previously connected with feeding behavior supports an indirect role for GLUT 2 in 'glucose sensing' in these specific cerebral structures.