Recent evidence has demonstrated regional synthesis of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) in rat brain, which is also known to contain widespread specific type I IGF receptors. In order to precisely define sites of IGF-I mRNA synthesis, and their relationship to IGF-I receptor sites, we have applied the techniques of in situ hybridization and in vitro receptor autoradiography in rat brain. Frozen sections of adult rat brain and liver were hybridized with32P-labeled cDNA inserts for human IGF-I (780 base pairs) or a positive control transthyretin cDNA (1430 base pairs) probe, or a series of negative probes, followed by film or emulsion autoradiography. Receptor autoradiography was performed on similar sections using125I-IGF-I in buffer, some chambers containing excess unlabeled IGF-I. Hybridization of IGF-I probe was clearly seen only in three major brain regions: the olfactory bulb, hippocampus and cerebellum, whereas transthyretin only hybridized to choroid plexus as expected, and other probes showed no hybridization. In olfactory bulb, hybridization was greatest in the internal granular and mitral cell layers, with lower levels in the glomerular layer, where IGF-I receptors were concentrated. In hippocampus, hybridization was to pyramidal cells of Ammon’s horn in CA1 and CA2 layers and dentate gyrus, with some labeling in CA3. IGF-I receptors were most dense in CA2, CA3, CA4, and dentate gyrus. In cerebellum, hybridization was to the granule cell layer, with IGF-I receptors primarily in the adjacent molecular layer. We have clearly demonstrated precise sites of local IGF-I synthesis in adult rat brain, adjacent to, and sometimes overlapping sites of high density IGF-I receptors. These data are consistent with paracrine systems of IGF-I action in the brain.