Melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH), a 19 amino acid cyclic peptide, is largely expressed in the hypothalamus. It is implicated in the control of general arousal and goal-orientated behaviours in mammals, and appears to be a key messenger in the regulation of food intake. An understanding of the biological actions of MCH has been so far hampered by the lack of information about its receptor(s) and their location in the brain. We recently identified the orphan G-protein-coupled receptor SLC-1 as a receptor for the neuropeptide MCH. We used in situ hybridization histochemistry and immunohistochemistry to determine the distribution of SLC-1 mRNA and its protein product in the rat brain and spinal cord. SLC-1 mRNA and protein were found to be widely and strongly expressed throughout the brain. Immunoreactivity was observed in areas that largely overlapped with regions mapping positive for mRNA. SLC-1 signals were observed in the cerebral cortex, caudate-putamen, hippocampal formation, amygdala, hypothalamus and thalamus, as well as in various nuclei of the mesencephalon and rhombencephalon. The distribution of the receptor mRNA and immunolabelling was in good general agreement with the previously reported distribution of MCH itself. Our data are consistent with the known biological effects of MCH in the brain, e.g. modulation of the stress response, sexual behaviour, anxiety, learning, seizure production, grooming and sensory gating, and with a role for SLC-1 in mediating these physiological actions.