We previously identified transcripts encoding a G protein-coupled, extracellular calcium/polyvalent cation-sensing receptor, RaKCaR, in rat kidney (D. Riccardi, J. Park, W.-S. Lee, G. Gamba, E. M. Brown, and S. C. Hebert. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 92:131-135, 1994), which was proposed to provide the mechanism for modulating a variety of renal functions in response to changes in extracellular Ca2+ (E. M. Brown. In: Handbook of Physiology. Bethesda, MD: Am. Physiol. Soc., 1992, sect. 8, vol. 2, chapt. 39, p. 1841-1916; and S. C. Hebert. Kidney Int. 50: 2129-2139, 1996). Here, we examine the cellular and regional distribution of receptor protein by immunofluorescence microscopy using a polyclonal antibody raised against a 22 amino acid region of the NH2 terminus of the receptor. The most intense fluorescence was seen at the basolateral border of cortical thick ascending limb cells. Basolateral staining for the receptor was also detected in medullary thick ascending limbs, in macula densa cells identified by costaining with antibody to brain nitric oxide synthase, NOS-B1, and in distal convoluted tubule cells distinguished by costaining for the apical thiazide-sensitive Na(+)-Cl- cotransporter. Apical anti-RaKCaR staining was detected at the base of the brush border of proximal tubules with decreasing intensity from S1 to S3 segments. In cortical collecting ducts, anti-RaKCaR staining was detected in some, but not all, type A intercalated cells identified by costaining with anti-H(+)-ATPase and anti-AE1 Cl-/HCO3- exchanger antibodies. The present study demonstrates that RaKCaR protein is expressed in many different nephron segments and that the polarity of receptor expression varies with cell type along the nephron. These results suggest potential roles for the extracellular Ca2+/ polyvalent cation-sensing receptor in responding to both circulating and urinary concentrations of divalent minerals and potentially other polyvalent cations (e.g., aminoglycoside antibiotics) to modulate nephron function.