Metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) mediate the effects of glutamate neurotransmission on intracellular second messenger systems. Among the seven distinct mGluR receptor isoforms currently identified, the mGluR5 isoform is expressed particularly prominently in the striatum, where it may contribute to neuronal plasticity, motor behaviors, and excitotoxic injury. mGluR5 mRNA expression in striatal enkephalinergic, somatostatinergic, and cholinergic neurons was examined using double label in situ hybridization techniques. mGluR5 expression is abundant in a large number of medium-sized striatal cells but is absent in a significant minority of neurons. Double label in situ hybridization with 35S-dATP- and digoxygenin-dUTP-tailed oligonucleotide probes demonstrated that mGluR5 message is highly expressed by enkephalinergic striatal neurons but is not detectable in cholinergic or somatostatin interneurons. In addition, some nonenkephalin, presumably substance P, neurons were also strongly labeled for mGluR5. The differential expression of mGluR5 in striatal projection neurons vs. interneurons may contribute to the selective vulnerability of these neurons to disease processes.