Distribution of the messenger RNA for a metabotropic glutamate receptor, mGluR2, which is coupled to the inhibitory cyclic AMP cascade, was investigated in the central nervous system of the adult rat by in situ hybridization. Transcripts of mGluR2 were specifically localized to neuronal cells of the brain. Although the hybridization signals were widely distributed in the brain, the most prominent expression of mGluR2 messenger RNA was seen in Golgi cells of the cerebellum. Marked expression of mGluR2 messenger RNA was further observed in the mitral cells of the accessory olfactory bulb, neurons in the external part of the anterior olfactory nucleus, and pyramidal neurons in the entorhinal and parasubicular cortical regions. The granule cells of the accessory olfactory bulb, and many pyramidal and non-pyramidal neurons in the neocortical, cingulate, retrosplenial and subicular cortices, were moderately labeled. All of the granule cells in the dentate gyrus were also labeled moderately, whereas no significant hybridization signals were detected in Ammon's horn. In the basal forebrain regions, moderately labeled neurons were distributed in the triangular septal nucleus, in the lateral, basolateral and basomedial amygdaloid nuclei, and in the medial mammillary nucleus. Weakly labeled neurons were sparsely scattered in the striatum, globus pallidus, ventral pallidum and claustrum. The subthalamic nucleus was also labeled weakly. No significant labeling was found in the entopeduncular nucleus and substantia nigra. In the thalamus, moderately labeled neurons were distributed in the anterodorsal, anteromedial, ventromedial, intralaminar and midline nuclei; the ventrolateral part of the anteroventral nucleus and the rostral pole of the ventrolateral nucleus also contained moderately labeled neurons. No significant labeling was found in the thalamic reticular, submedius, ventroposterior, lateral geniculate and medial geniculate nuclei. In the lower brainstem, labeling was generally weak. No significant hybridization signals were found in the spinal cord. Some neurons in the inner part of the inner nuclear layer of the retina and some retinal ganglion cells were labeled moderately. The pattern of distribution of mGluR2 messenger RNA revealed in the present study indicates specific roles of mGluR2 in the glutamatergic system in the brain.