Inflammatory and degenerative pathophysiological processes within the CNS are important causes of human disease. Astrocytes appear to modulate these reactions and are a major source of inflammatory mediators, e.g. extracellular adenine nucleotides, in nervous tissues. Actions following extracellular nucleotides binding to type 2 purinergic receptors are regulated by ectonucleotidases, including members of the CD39/ecto-nucleoside triphosphate diphosphohydrolase family. The ectonucleotidases of astrocytes expressed by rat brain rapidly convert extracellular ATP to ADP, ultimately to AMP. RT-PCR, immunocytochemistry as well as Western blotting analysis demonstrated expression of multiple ecto-nucleoside triphosphate diphosphohydrolase family members at both the mRNA and protein level. By quantitative real-time PCR, we identified Entpd2 (CD39L1) as the dominant Entpd gene expressed by rat hippocampal, cortical and cerebellar astrocytes. These data in combination with the elevated ecto-ATPase activity observed in these brain regions, suggest that NTPDase2, an ecto-enzyme that preferentially hydrolyzes ATP, is the major ecto-nucleoside triphosphate diphosphohydrolase expressed by rat astrocytes. NTPDase2 may modulate inflammatory reactions within the CNS and could represent a useful therapeutic target in human disease.