Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), primarily present as a soluble cytosolic form (S-COMT), inactivates catechols. The recent cloning of the rat and human S-COMT from placenta has allowed us to synthesize complementary oligonucleotide probes to study the localization of COMT mRNA during development in the rat kidney and in the adult human kidney using in situ hybridization histochemistry. In the adult rat kidney, COMT mRNA was detected in segment S3 of proximal tubule cells in the outer stripe of the outer medulla, and thick ascending limb of loop of Henle (TAL) in the inner stripe. COMT mRNA was detected in the prenatal rat kidney as early as on day 18. In the human kidney, strong hybridization signal was seen in the medulla and in tubule segments of the cortex. In the adult rat kidney, COMT mRNA was in addition demonstrated in the transitional epithelium of the ureter. The results suggest synthesis of COMT and inactivation of catechols along the distal parts of proximal tubules, in TAL cells, and in the epithelium of the ureter.