The Y1 receptor for neuropeptide Y (NPY) is highly expressed in mammalian CNS where it mediates the activation of several neurobiological functions. We have previously demonstrated that a 1.3-kb fragment upstream of the transcription initiation sites of the murine Y1 receptor gene is able to direct specific expression of reporter genes in neuronal cell cultures. In the present study transgenic mice harbouring this putative promoter region linked to the LacZ reporter gene were generated and analysed for temporal and spatial distribution. Ten transgenic lines expressed β-galactosidase in the CNS but not in other organs such as heart, liver and kidney. Histochemical analysis of brain from adult transgenic mice showed specific expression of the transgene in specific brain regions with little variation. Four transgenic lines showed characteristic patterns of β-galactosidase activity in the brain that are consistent with the expression of the endogenous gene. Prominent LacZ activity was present in several telencephalic and diencephalic structures, including deeper layers of cerebral cortex, amygdaloid complex, hippocampus, preoptic area, several thalamic and hypothalamic nuclei and habenula. The ontogeny analysis indicates that the LacZ expression agrees with the temporal expression pattern of rat Y1 receptor mRNA. These data demonstrate that the 1.3-kb upstream region of the murine Y1 receptor gene contains the cis acting elements required for establishing a CNS-restricted and developmental stage-specific pattern of expression in vivo. Moreover they provide further information on the distribution of this NPY subtype receptor in mammalian brain.