Insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) is an important modulator of cell growth and plasticity in the CNS. Expression of the IGF-I receptor mRNA in brain peaks at times of active cell development perinatally and remains detectable, albeit at lower levels, in the adult. While both autoradiographic and in situ hybridization studies show a wide and specific distribution of IGF-I receptor throughout the adult rat brain, nothing is yet known about its subcellular localization, a critical issue that will help clarify the biological role of this trophic factor in the adult brain. The present study describes the subcellular localization of IGF-I receptor immunoreactivity in the cerebellar cortex and the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus by using electron microscopic immunocytochemistry. In the cerebellum, IGF-I receptor immunoreactivity is present postsynaptically in the dendrites and soma of the Purkinje cell and presynaptically in axon terminals impinging upon the Purkinje cell soma, as well as in mossy fibre rosettes in the cerebellar glomeruli. Neurons in the mediobasal hypothalamus also contain IGF-I receptors located pre- and postsynaptically. Endothelial cells, astroglial end-feet surrounding micro vessels thoughout all the brain parenchyma, tanycytes of the third ventricle and oligodendrocytes in the cerebellar white matter are also rich in IGF-I receptors. These results strongly support previous observations that IGF-I is a neuromodulator in the adult brain, probably acting as both a pre- and a postsynaptic messenger. They also suggest that glial cells may be involved in the actions of IGF-I in the adult brain.