A recently cloned rat brain cDNA derives from a novel gene, termed dendrin (DEN), expressed exclusively in forebrain structures, particularly in neocortex, olfactory bulb, hippocampus, caudate-putamen, and limbic system. In these structures, the cognate mRNA is present in neuronal cell bodies and their dendrites, whereas near exclusive dendritic localization is observed for the polypeptide product. In the hippocamus, DEN mRNA is highly expressed in the cell laminae and dendritic layers of the dentate gyrus and CA1 field, but expression is markedly reduced in the CA3 and CA4 areas. The predicted primary structure of the hydrophilic, highly basic 653-amino-acid polypeptide does not suggest a function. The restricted expression and dendritic location are compatible with a role for DEN in synaptic plasticity of central neocortical forebrain neurons.