Urotensin II (UII) is a peptide known to be a potent vasoconstrictor. The urotensin II receptor (UII-R) is expressed not only in peripheral tissues but also in the brain of rodents. As a basis for studies of UII central nervous system actions, UII-R localization in the rat brain was analyzed by in situ hybridization and by in situ binding. UII-R mRNA was found in the mesopontine tegmental area colocalizing with choline acetyltransferase. Binding sites were detected throughout the brain with the highest levels found in the pedunculopontine tegmental area, the lateral dorsal tegmental area, and the lateral septal, medial habenular, and interpeduncular nuclei. The majority of these brain nuclei are sites of axonal termination originating from the mesopontine areas, suggesting that UII-R is a presynaptic receptor. This distribution of UII-R in the cholinergic mesopontine area indicates that the UII system may be involved in sensory-motor integration and perhaps in central nervous system blood flow.