We have previously reported that the insulin-responsive glucose transporter GLUT4 is strongly expressed by discrete areas of the rat brain (Leloup et al.  Molec. Brain Res. 38:45-53). In the present study, a sensitive immunocytochemical technique has been used to analyze extensively the anatomical and ultrastructural localizations of GLUT4 in the rat central nervous system in order to gain insight into the physiological role of this transporter. We confirm that GLUT4 is expressed by numerous neurons of the brain and spinal cord, whereas glial cells are more scarcely labeled. In both light and electron microscopy, we observe that the immunoreactivity for GLUT4 is localized mainly in the somatodendritic portion of neurons, where some cisterns of rough endoplasmic reticulum, ribosomal rosettes, certain Golgi saccules, and some intracytoplasmic vesicles are labeled. In contrast, axons and nerve terminals are only occasionally immunostained in certain brain regions such as the neocortex and the ventricular surfaces for example. The GLUT4-immunoreactive structures appear concentrated and most prominently immunostained in motor areas, such as the sensorimotor cortex, most basal ganglia and related nuclei, the cerebellum and deep cerebellar nuclei, a number of reticular fields, motor nuclei of cranial nerves, and motor neurons of the ventral horn of the spinal cord. The labeled regions, which also include some sensory nuclei, are often those in which Vissing et al. ( J. Cerebral Blood Flow Metab. 16:729-736) have shown that exercise stimulates local cerebral glucose utilization, so that GLUT4 might be involved in this effect. On the other hand, the fact that the anatomical localizations of GLUT4 reported here generally agree with the distribution of insulin- or insulin-receptor- related receptors is important since it indicates that the translocation of GLUT4 might also be regulated by insulin in the central nervous system.