The similar pharmacology of the 5-HT1B and 5-HT1D receptors, and the lack of selective compounds sufficiently distinguishing between the two receptor subtypes, have hampered functional studies on these receptors. In order to provide clues for differential functional roles of the two subtypes, we performed a parallel localization study throughout the guinea-pig brain and the trigeminal ganglia by means of quantitative in situ hybridization histochemistry (using [35S]-labelled riboprobes probes for receptor messenger RNA) and receptor autoradiography (using a new radioligand [3H]alniditan). The anatomical patterns of 5-HT1B and 5-HT1D receptor messenger RNA were quite different. While 5-HT1B receptor messenger RNA was abundant throughout the brain (with highest levels in the striatum, nucleus accumbens, olfactory tubercle, cortex, hypothalamus, hippocampal formation, amygdala, thalamus, dorsal raphe and cerebellum), 5-HT1D receptor messenger RNA exhibited a more restricted pattern; it was found mainly in the olfactory tubercle, entorhinal cortex, dorsal raphe, cerebellum, mesencephalic trigeminal nucleus and in the trigeminal ganglion. The density of 5-HT(1B/1D) binding sites (combined) obtained with [3H]alniditan autoradiography was high in the substantia nigra, superior colliculus and globus pallidus, whereas lower levels were detected in the caudate-putamen, hypothalamus, hippocampal formation, amygdala, thalamus and central gray. This distribution pattern was indistinguishable from specific 5-HT1B receptor labelling in the presence of ketanserin under conditions to occlude 5-HT1D receptor labelling; hence the latter were below detection level. Relationships between the regional distributions of the receptor messenger RNAs and binding sites and particular neuroanatomical pathways are discussed with respect to possible functional roles of the 5-HT1B and 5-HT1D receptors.