Fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGF-R) mRNA expression was examined in the adult rat CNS. Northern blot analysis showed a distinct 4.3 kb transcript in various CNS regions. In situ hybridization revealed widely distributed, but specific, populations of cells that express FGF-R mRNA. The most intense hybridization signals were observed in the hippocampus and in the pontine cholinergic neurons. The limbic system and brainstem nuclei, including motor nuclei, showed robust labeling. Cerebellar granule cells and spinal cord neurons were positive for FGF-R mRNA. The distribution of FGF-R mRNA differed significantly from that of NGF receptor mRNA; particularly, no hybridization signal was detected in basal forebrain cholinergic neurons. These results strongly suggest that FGF or FGF-like molecules may exert effects on specific neuronal populations in the mature CNS.