Résumé : A high density (in the pmol/mg protein range) of specific functional receptors for PACAP (pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide) was observed in membranes from rat brain cortex, olfactory bulb, hypothalamus, hippocampus, striatum, cerebellum, pons and cervico-dorsal spinal cord, using [125I]PACAP-27 (PACAP 1-27). The tracer bound rapidly, specifically and reversibly. Competition binding curves were compatible with the coexistence, in the eight central nervous areas explored, of high and low affinity binding sites for PACAP-27 (K(d) of 0.2 nM and 3.0 nM, respectively), and of only one class of binding sites for PACAP-38 (PACAP (1-38), K(d) 0.2-0.9 nM). VIP inhibited only partially the binding of [125I]PACAP-27, and PHI, GRF(1-29)NH2 and secretin were ineffective at 1 μM. Chemical [125I]PACAP-27 cross-linking revealed a single specific 64 kDa protein species. In rat brain cortical membranes, saturation and competition experiments, using [125I]PACAP-38 as radioligand, indicated the presence of both high (K(d) 0.13 nM) and low (K(d) 8-10 nM) affinity binding sites for PACAP-38 and of low affinity (K(d) 30 nM) binding sites for PACAP-27. These data taken collectively suggest the coexistence of PACAP-A receptors with a slight preference for PACAP-27 over PACAP-38 and of PACAP-B receptors that recognize PACAP-38 with a high affinity and PACAP-27 with low affinity. Both PACAP-27 and PACAP-38 stimulated adenylate cyclase with similar potency and efficacy. VIP was markedly less potent in this respect and also less efficient, except on cerebellar membranes.