The expression of the mRNAs encoding the alpha and beta subunits of the GABAA/benzodiazepine receptor was examined in the bovine cerebellum by in situ hybridization histochemistry. The alpha subunit mRNA, which encodes the benzodiazepine binding site, was localized in all Purkinje and granule cells and in some cells of the molecular layer. The distribution of the beta subunit mRNA, which encodes the GABA binding site, only partially overlapped with that of the alpha subunit mRNA. While cells in the granule cell layer expressed the beta subunit mRNA, no message could be detected in other cell populations. These findings suggest that the subunit composition of the GABAA/benzodiazepine receptor is heterogeneous and that additional, as yet unidentified, beta subunits exist.