The expression pattern of mRNA encoding two orexin receptors (OX1R and OX2R) in the rat brain was examined. OX1R and OX2R exhibited marked differential distribution. Within the hypothalamus, OX1R mRNA is most abundant in the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus whereas OX2R is predominantly expressed in the paraventricular nucleus. High levels of OX1R mRNA were also detected in tenia tecta, the hippocampal formation, dorsal raphe, and locus coeruleus. OX2R mRNA is mainly expressed in cerebral cortex, nucleus accumbens, subthalamic and paraventricular thalamic nuclei, anterior pretectal nucleus. The presence of orexin receptor mRNA in the hypothalamus is in support of its proposed role in feeding regulation. Broad central distribution of orexin receptors may indicate additional functions for orexins.