All studies analyzing the localization of angiotensin II (Ang II) receptors in the human kidney have been performed at the protein level using 125I-Ang II as a probe. In this study, cellular localizations of Ang II type l (AT1-R) and type 2 (AT2-R) receptor mRNAs in the adult human renal cortex were examined for the first time using in situ hybridization, and their expression patterns determined by RNase protection assay were compared with those in other human tissues. In the human renal cortex obtained from tumor-free portions in renal cell carcinoma, AT1-R mRNA levels were about 8- to 10-fold higher than AT2-R mRNA levels. Human liver and aorta predominantly expressed AT1-R mRNA, while human right atrium contained both AT1-R and AT2-R mRNAs. Ligand-binding assays revealed that the total Ang II receptor number in the human renal cortex was 16.0 +/- 3.3 fmol/mg protein, similar to that in liver (17.7 +/- 5. 8) but significantly higher than in right atrium (11.6 +/- 3.2) and aorta (5.6 +/- 2.7). Relative distribution ratios of AT1-R and AT2-R numbers in the renal cortex and right atrium were 82/17 and 56/42%, respectively. In situ hybridization study indicated that strongest AT1-R mRNA signals were located in interlobular arteries and tubulointerstitial fibrous regions surrounding interlobular arteries and glomeruli, followed in decreasing order by glomeruli and cortical tubules. Expression of AT2-R mRNA was highly localized in interlobular arteries. Cells present in tubulointerstitial regions were positive for vimentin and collagen type 1, indicating that the majority of the cells present in the regions are fibroblasts. Presence of strong AT1-R mRNA signals in the tubulointerstitial fibrous regions surrounding arteries and glomeruli and the expression of AT2-R mRNA in the interlobular artery were the first evidence, suggesting a pharmacological framework for the differential effects of Ang II receptor subtype mediated renal function in the adult human kidney.