The distribution of the mRNA for a pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) receptor (PACAP-R) was examined in the rat brain, and also in the hypophysis and pineal gland, by in situ hybridization with a specific 35S-labeled riboprobe which was generated from a rat PACAP-R cDNA clone. In the brain, expression of PACAP-R mRNA was most prominent in the periglomerular and granule cells of the olfactory bulb, granule cells of the dentate gyrus, supraoptic nucleus, and area postrema. The expression was also intense in the piriform, cingulate, and retrosplenial cortices, pyramidal cells in CA2, non-pyramidal cells in CA1-CA3, neuronal cells in the hilus of the dentate gyrus, lateral septal nucleus, intercalated amygdaloid nucleus, anterodorsal thalamic nucleus, most of the midline and intralaminar thalamic nuclei, many regions of the hypothalamus, dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve, hypoglossal nucleus, and lateral reticular nucleus. No significant expression was detected in the mitral and tufted cells in the olfactory bulb, pyramidal cells in CA1 and CA3, posterior nuclear group of the thalamus, dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus, and Purkinje, Golgi, and granule cells in the cerebellar cortex. Moderate-to-weak expression was further observed in many other regions of the brain. In the cerebellar cortex, presumed Bergmann glia cells showed moderate expression. In the hypophysis, the expression was moderate in the anterior lobe, and weak to moderate in the posterior lobe; no significant expression was observed in the intermediate lobe. In the pineal gland, the expression was very weak, if any. Thus, the expression of PACAP-R was detected not only on neuronal cells but also on some particular glial cells. The present study has shown, for the first time, the exact site of PACAP-R expression in the brain and hypophysis. Although the functional significance of PACAP and PACAP-R in the brain still remains to be clarified, the present results are considered to provide some direction for future functional studies.