We report the isolation, by RT-PCR, of partial cDNAs encoding the rat peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) isoforms PPARα, PPARβ, and PPARγ and the rat retinoid X receptor (RXR) isoforms RXRα, RXRβ, and RXRγ. These cDNAs were used to generate antisense RNA probes to permit analysis, by the highly sensitive and discriminatory RNase protection assay, of the corresponding mRNAs in rat brain regions during development. PPARα, PPARβ, RXRα, and RXRβ mRNAs are ubiquitously present in different brain regions during development, PPARγ mRNA is essentially undetectable, and RXRγ mRNA is principally localised to cortex. We demonstrate, for the first time, the presence of PPAR and RXR mRNAs in primary cultures of neonatal meningeal fibroblasts, cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs), and cortical and cerebellar astrocytes and in primary cultures of adult cortical astrocytes. PPARα, PPARβ, RXRα, and RXRβ mRNAs are present in all cell types, albeit that PPARα and RXRα mRNAs are at levels near the limit of detection in CGNs. PPARγ mRNA is expressed at low levels in most cell types but is present at levels similar to those of PPARα mRNA in adult astrocytes. RXRγ mRNA is present either at low levels, or below the level of detection of the assay, for all cell types studied.