The GABA receptor rho1, rho2, and rho3 subunits are expressed in the retina where they form bicuculline-insensitive GABA(C) receptors. We used northern blot, in situ hybridization, and RT-PCR analysis to study the expression of rho subunits in rat brains. In situ hybridization allowed us to detect rho-subunit expression in the superficial gray layer of the superior colliculus and in the cerebellar Purkinje cells. RT-PCR experiments indicated that (a) in retina and in domains that may contain functional GABA(C) receptors, rho2 and rho1 subunits are expressed at similar levels; and (b) in domains and in tissues that are unlikely to contain GABA(C) receptors, rho2 mRNA is enriched relative to rho1 mRNA. These results suggest that both rho1 and rho2 subunits are necessary to form a functional GABA(C) receptor. The use of RT-PCR also showed that, except in the superior colliculus, rho3 is expressed along with rho1 and rho2 subunits. We also raised an antibody against a peptide sequence unique to the rho1 subunit. The use of this antibody on cerebellum revealed the rat rho1 subunit in the soma and dendrites of Purkinje neurons. The allocation of GABA(C) receptor subunits to identified neurons paves the way for future electrophysiological studies.