To learn more about molecular alterations in the brain that occur as a consequence of either the chronic excess or absence of peptide neurotransmitters, we examined the impact of genetically manipulating the neuropeptide galanin on the expression of one of its cognate receptors, galanin receptor 1. First, we examined the distribution of galanin receptor 1 messenger RNA in the mouse forebrain, and found it to be abundantly expressed in many brain regions, including in numerous hypothalamic and other forebrain regions associated with neuroendocrine function. The distribution of galanin receptor 1 messenger RNA in the mouse was similar to previous reports in the rat, with additional expression noted in the caudate putamen and in several midbrain regions. Next, using quantitative in situ hybridization, we measured cellular levels of galanin receptor 1 messenger RNA in the brains of mice that either overexpress galanin (galanin transgenic) or lack a functional galanin gene (galanin knockout). We report that relative to wild-type controls, the expression of galanin receptor 1 messenger RNA was increased in discrete areas of the brain in galanin-transgenic mice, but that depletion of galanin/noradrenergic innervation to the hypothalamus with the neurotoxin 6-hydroxydopamine did not alter levels of galanin receptor 1 messenger RNA. We also report that levels of galanin receptor 1 messenger RNA were not different between galanin-knockout and wild-type mice. These results suggest that compensatory adjustments in the expression of cognate receptors represent one mechanism by which the developing nervous system attempts to maintain homeostasis in response to overexpression of a peptidergic transmitter. However, the lack of significant changes in galanin receptor 1 messenger RNA in galanin-knockout mice suggests that developmentally programmed levels of receptor expression are maintained even in the complete absence of ligand.