Several lines of evidence suggest the existence of multiple dopamine receptor subtypes, referred to as D1 and D2. The present study examines the distribution of these dopamine binding sites in the rat brain and pituitary in relation to the distribution of D2 receptor mRNA using a combination of in vitro receptor autoradiographic and in situ hybridization techniques. 3H-Raclopride and 3H-SCH23390 (in the presence of 1 μM ketanserin) were used to label D2 and D1 receptor binding sites, respectively, while a 495 bp cRNA probe synthesized from the Sac I-Bgl II fragment of a rat D2 receptor cDNA was used to visualize the D2 receptor mRNA. Analysis of adjacent tissue sections in which receptor autoradiography and in situ hybridization had been performed revealed several brain regions where the D2 binding site and corresponding mRNA appear to be similarly distributed, including the caudate-putamen, nucleus accumbens, olfactory tubercle, globus pallidus, substantia nigra, and ventral tegmental area. In the pituitary gland, D2 binding sites and mRNA appear to be codistributed with very dense levels in the intermediate lobe and individually labeled cells in the anterior lobe. Brain regions demonstrating a lack of correspondence between the distribution of the D2 binding site and D2 receptor mRNA include the olfactory bulb, neocortex, paleocortex, hippocampus, and zona incerta. Several hypotheses are discussed to explain the lack of correspondence in certain brain regions; these include the localization of receptor binding sites on both fibers and cell bodies and receptor transport. These studies provide a better understanding of the anatomical distribution of the D2 receptor and serve as a frame-work for future regulatory and anatomical mapping studies. By focusing on specific brain regions, such as the nigro-striatal system, hippocampus, and olfactory bulb, they provide insights into D2 receptor synthesis, transport, and insertion into cell membranes.