The hypopthalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) coordinates multiple aspects of homeostatic regulation, including pituitary-adrenocortical function, cardiovascular tone, metabolic balance, fluid/electrolyte status, parturition and lactation. In all cases, a substantial component of this function is controlled by glutamate neurotransmission. In this study, the authors performed a high-resolution in situ hybridization analysis of ionotropic glutamate receptor subunit expression in the PVN and its immediate surround, N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor 1 (NMDAR1), NMDAR2A, and NMDAR2B mRNAs were expressed highly throughout the PVN and its perinuclear region as well as in the subparaventricular zone. NMDAR2C/2D expression was limited to subsets of neurons in magnocellular and hypophysiotrophic regions. In contrast with NMDA subunit localization, AMPA (alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate)-preferring and kainate (KA)-preferring receptor subunit mRNAs were expressed heterogeneously in the PVN and surround. Glutamate receptor 1 (GluR1) mRNA labeling was most intense in preautonomic subregions, whereas GluR2, GluR4, GluR5, and KA2 were expressed in hypophysiotrophic cell. groups. It is noteworthy that GluR5 mRNA expression was particularly robust in the dorsolateral region of the medial parvocellular PVN, suggesting localization in corticotropin-releasing hormone neurons. All four AMPA subunits and GluR6 and GluR7 mRNAs were expressed highly in the perinuclear PVN region and the subparaventricular zone. These data suggest the capacity for multifaceted regulation of PVN function by glutamate, with magnocellular neurons preferentially expressing NMDA subunits, preautonomic neurons preferentially expressing AMPA subunits, and hypophysiotrophic neurons preferentially expressing KA subunits. Localization of all species in the perinuclear PVN suggests that glutamate input to the immediate region of the PVN may modulate its function, perhaps by communication with local gamma-aminobutyric acid neurons. J. Comp. Neurol. 422:352-362, 2000. (C) 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.