The localization of gp130, the signal transducing receptor component used in common for interleukin (IL)-6, IL-11, ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), LIF and OSM, in the rat brain was demonstrated by immunohistochemistry using an antibody specific to gpl30. The gp130 immunoreactivity was observed in both glial and neuronal cells. Two distinct neuronal staining patterns were observed. The first showed neuropil staining, observed mainly in telencephalic structures including the hippocampus, cerebral cortex and caudate-putamen. The second pattern was observed on the cytoplasmic membrane of neuronal somata and was found primarily in the lower brainstem, in the large neurons of the reticular formation, and in spinal and cranial motor neurons. Electron-microscopic analysis revealed that both types of gpl30 immunoreactivity were primarily associated with the cytoplasmic membrane and were not localized exactly at synaptic sites. Further, gpl30 immunoreactivity was also observed in the oligodendrocytes and subependymal zone. These widespread but characteristic patterns of gp130 immunoreactivity overlap well with those of IL-6 receptor and CNTF alpha chains, suggesting a role of cytokines and growth factors such as IL-6 and CNTF via gp130 in certain specific regions of the brain.