Protein-tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs) are key regulators of the insulin receptor signal transduction pathway. We have performed a detailed analysis of PTP expression in the major human insulin target tissues or cells (liver, adipose tissue, skeletal muscle and endothelial cells). To obtain a representative picture, all tissues were analyzed by PCR using three different primer sets corresponding to conserved regions of known PTPs. A total of 24 different PTPs were identified. A multiprobe RNase protection assay was developed to obtain a semiquantitative measure of the expression levels of selected PTPs. Surprisingly, PTP-LAR, previously suggested to be a major regulator of the insulin receptor tyrosine kinase, was expressed in extremely low levels in skeletal muscle, whereas the related receptor-type PTP-sigma and PTP-alpha were expressed in relatively high levels in all four tissues. The low levels of LAR PTP mRNA in skeletal muscle were further confirmed by Northern blot analysis.