Metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs), which couple glutamate to second messengers, have important roles in the regulation of movement by the basal ganglia. We used two polyclonal antisera to mGluR1a and mGluR2/3 and confocal laser microscopy to investigate the localization of these receptors in the basal ganglia of the rat. The mGluRs were visualized in combination with an antibody to tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), an antibody to microtubule- associated protein 2 (MAP2, a dendritic marker), or SV2 (an antibody to a protein associated with presynaptic terminals). In the neostriatum, punctate mGluR1a immunoreactivity (ir) was present in the neuropil. This staining did not colocalize with MAP2-ir or SV2-ir and was not altered by decortication or unilateral 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) lesions. In the globus pallidus and substantia nigra pars reticulata, however, mGluR1a-ir was tightly clustered along large MAP2-ir dendrites. In contrast to the variations in mGluR1a-ir staining, similar punctate neuropil mGluR2/3-ir staining was observed within all basal ganglia structures. In the neostriatum, these puncta were abundant; unlike mGluR1a, many mGluR2/3-ir puncta colocalized with SV2-ir, and striatal mGluR2/3-ir puncta were markedly reduced in number after decortication. Neither mGluR1a-ir nor mGluR2/3-ir could be detected in TH-ir soma within substantia nigra pars compacta, or in TH-ir striatal terminals. Overall, our observations suggest that mGluR1a and mGluR2/3 receptors have distinct cellular localizations in different components of the basal ganglia circuitry and are likely to subserve distinct functions. Our data support the presence of mGluR2/3 on the terminals of corticostriatal afferents, where they may regulate glutamate release. In contrast, mGluR1a appears to be a postsynaptic receptor of neurons in the neostriatum, globus pallidus, and substantia nigra pars reticulata.