Expression of mRNAs encoding seven GABAA receptor subunits (α1, α2, α3, α5, β2, β3, γ2) in the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS) of rat medulla oblongata was examined by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). All subunit mRNAs, except α5, were clearly detected. Band densities produced by α1, α3, β3, and γ2 subunits were greater than those corresponding to β2 and α2 transcripts. The localization of these subunits in tissue sections through NTS was examined by immunohistochemistry. The differential patterns of immunoreactivity in neuronal somata and dendrites of NTS neurons were generally in agreement with the PCR results, confirming that mRNA expression is correlated with receptor protein synthesis. At ultrastructural level, α1, α3, β2/3, and γ2 subunits were localized in both cytoplasmic and subsynaptic sites, the latter often apposed to GABA immunoreactive synapses. These results suggest that ionotropic receptors comprising the α1, α3, β2/3 and γ2 may mediate inhibitory GABA responses in the NTS.