Growth hormone release is under tight control by two hypothalamic hormones: growth hormone-releasing hormone and somatostatin. In addition, synthetic growth hormone secretagogues have also been shown to regulate growth hormone release through the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R), suggesting the existence of an additional physiological regulator for growth hormone release. To understand the physiological role of the GHS-R in more detail, we mapped the expression of mRNA for the receptor by in situ hybridization and RNase protection assays using rat and human tissues. In the rat brain, the major signals were detected in multiple hypothalamic nuclei as well as in the pituitary gland. Intense signals were also observed in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampal formation. Other brain areas that displayed localized and discrete signals for the receptor include the CA2 and CA3 regions of the hippocampus, the substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area, and dorsal and median raphe nuclei. In resemblance to the results from rat brain, RNase protection assays using human tissues revealed specific signals in pituitary, hypothalamus and hippocampus. Moreover, a weak signal was noted in the pancreas. The demonstration of hypothalamic and pituitary localization of the GHS-R is consistent with its role in regulating growth hormone release. The expression of the receptor in other central and peripheral regions may implicate its involvement in additional as yet undefined physiological functions.