The distribution of mRNAs for metabotropic glutamate receptors, mGluR4 and mGluR7, which are highly sensitive for L-2-amino-4-phosphonobutyrate (L-AP4), was examined in the central nervous system of the rat by in situ hybridization. In general, the hybridization signals of mGluR7 mRNA were more widely distributed than those of mGluR4 mRNA, and differential expression of mGluR4 mRNA and mGluR7 mRNA was clearly indicated in some brain regions. Intense or moderate expression of mGluR4 mRNA was detected in the granule cells of the olfactory bulb and cerebellum, whereas no significant expression of mGluR7 mRNA was found in these cells. In other neurons or regions where mGluR7 mRNA was intensely or moderately expressed, no significant expression of mGluR4 mRNA was observed. Such were the mitral and tufted cells of the olfactory bulb; anterior olfactory nucleus; neocortical regions; cingulate cortex; retrosplenial cortex; piriform cortex; perirhinal cortex; CA1; CA3; granule cells of the dentate gyrus; superficial layers of the subicular cortex; deep layers of the entorhinal, parasubicular, and presubicular cortices; ventral part of the lateral septal nucleus; septohippocampal nucleus; triangular septal nucleus; nuclei of the diagonal band; bed nucleus of the stria terminalis; ventral pallidum; claustrum; amygdaloid nuclei other than the intercalated nuclei; preoptic region; hypothalamic nuclei other than the medial mammillary nucleus; ventral lateral geniculate nucleus; locus coeruleus; Purkinje cells; many nuclei of the lower brainstem other than the superior colliculus, periaqueductal gray, interpeduncular nucleus, pontine nuclei, and dorsal cochlear nucleus; and dorsal horn of the spinal cord. Both mGluR4 mRNA and mGluR7 mRNA were moderately or intensely expressed in the olfactory tubercle, superficial layers of the entorhinal cortex, CA4, septofimbrial nucleus, intercalated nuclei of the amygdala, medial mammillary nucleus, many thalamic nuclei, and pontine nuclei. Intense expression of both mGluR4 mRNA and mGluR7 mRNA was further detected in the trigeminal ganglion and dorsal root ganglia, whereas no significant expression of them was found in the pterygopalatine ganglion and superior cervical ganglion. The results indicate differential roles of the L-AP4-sensitive metabotropic glutamate receptors in the glutamatergic nervous system.