The presence of retinoic acid receptor (RAR) α, β and γ mRNA was examined in 16 different kinds of rat tissue using the highly sensitive reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction technique. The data demonstrated that each tissue expressed at least two types of RAR mRNA. Among the three types of RAR mRNA, RAR α was widely expressed in all types of organ and was the dominant form expressed in the gastrointestinal tract. RAR β mRNA was not present in the intestine and spleen. In addition, RAR β mRNA levels were high in the heart, lung, brain, testis and epididymis. RAR γ mRNA was abundant in both male and female reproductive systems, as well as epidermal tissues. The prevalence of each RAR mRNA in the tissues suggests the diverse biological roles of these receptors.