We applied the directional tag PCR subtractive hybridization method to construct a rat hypothalamic cDNA library from which cerebellar and hippocampal sequences had been depleted, enriching 20-30-fold for sequences expressed selectively in the hypothalamus. We studied a sample of 94 clones selected for enrichment in the subtracted library. These clones corresponded to 43 distinct mRNA species, about half of which were novel. Thirty-eight of these 43 mRNAs (corresponding to 85 of the clones in the sample) exhibited enrichment in the hypothalamus; 23 were highly enriched. In situ hybridization studies revealed that one novel species was restricted to cells in a small bilaterally symmetric area of the paraventricular hypothalamus. Other novel mRNAs showed substantial enrichment in basal diencephalic structures, particularly the hypothalamus, without restriction to single hypothalamic nuclei. The data suggest that the hypothalamus utilizes at least two distinct strategies for employing its selectively expressed proteins. Secretory neuropeptides utilized for intercellular communication are produced by functionally discrete nuclei, while several other proteins are shared by structures that are unrelated in their physiological roles but may share biochemical systems.