The mRNA distribution in the brain and the coupling to cellular effector systems of four somatostatin receptors (SSTR1-4) was studied. All four SRIF receptor subtypes were expressed in cortex and hippocampus. In addition, SSTR1 mRNA was relatively abundant in the spinal cord whereas SSTR2 mRNA was also present in the striatum. The SSTR3 gene was predominantly expressed in the olfactory bulb and in the cerebellum. Conflicting results about the effector coupling of SSTR1-3 have been published previously. We have stably expressed human SSTR1-4 in HEK 293 human embryonal kidney cells. Agonist binding to the receptor subtypes, including the recently cloned SSTR4, inhibited the formation of forskolin-induced cAMP. Is is concluded that, in an appropriate cellular environment, all four receptor subtypes can functionally couple to the inhibition of adenylyl cyclase.