The localization of mRNA for atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) receptor subtypes (A, B, C) in the kidney was examined. Quantitative analysis of the ribonuclease protection assay showed that the numbers of type A receptor (ANPRA) mRNA were 6.9 x 10(7) in the glomeruli and 10.4 x 10(7) molecules/micrograms of total RNA in the inner medulla, and that of type C receptor (ANPRC) mRNA was 21.7 x 10(7) molecules/micrograms of total RNA in the glomeruli. The type B receptor (ANPRB) mRNA was present in smaller numbers (4.5-4.9 x 10(6) molecules/micrograms of total RNA) evenly throughout the kidney fractions. In situ hybridization demonstrated both ANPRA and ANPRC mRNA selectively in the glomerular epithelial cells and ANPRA mRNA in the collecting duct cells of the inner medulla. ANPRC was also localized on the foot processes of glomerular epithelial cells by immunohistochemistry using a specific antibody against the receptor. These results indicate that ANPRA is the major biologically active receptor for the ANP family of hormones in the kidney and is present selectively on the glomerular epithelial cells and inner medullary collecting duct cells. These cells are presumed to play a role in the regulation of glomerular filtration rate and sodium excretion induced by the family of ANP.