The mammalian AMP-activated protein kinase is a heterotrimeric serine/threonine protein kinase with multiple isoforms for each subunit (α, β, and γ) and is activated under conditions of metabolic stress. It is widely expressed in many tissues, including the brain, although its expression pattern throughout the CNS is unknown. We show that brain mRNA levels for the α2 and β2 subunits were increased between embryonic days 10 and 14, whereas expression of α1, β1, and γ1 subunits was consistent at all ages examined. Immunostaining revealed a mainly neuronal distribution of all isoforms. The α2 catalytic subunit was highly expressed in neurons and activated astrocytes, whereas the α1 catalytic subunit showed low expression in neuropil. The γ1 noncatalytic subunit was highly expressed by neurons, but not by astrocytes. Expression of the β1 and β2 noncatalytic subunits varied, but some neurons, such as granule cells of olfactory bulb, did not express detectable levels of either β isoform. Preferential nuclear localization of the α2, β1, and γ1 subunits suggests new functions of the AMP-activated protein kinase, and the different expression patterns and cellular localization between the two catalytic subunits α1 and α2 point to different physiological roles.