The main physiological regulator of erythropoiesis is the hematopoietic growth factor erythropoietin (EPO), which is induced in response to hypoxia. Binding of EPO to the EPO receptor (EPO-R), a member of the cytokine receptor superfamily, controls the terminal maturation of red blood cells. So far, EPO has been reported to act mainly on erythroid precursor cells. However, we have detected mRNA encoding both EPO and EPO-R in mouse brain by reverse transcription-PCR. Exposure to 0.1% carbon monoxide, a procedure that causes functional anemia, resulted in a 20-fold increase of EPO mRNA in mouse brain as quantified by competitive reverse transcription-PCR, whereas the EPO-R mRNA level was not influenced by hypoxia. Binding studies on mouse brain sections revealed defined binding sites for radioiodinated EPO in distinct brain areas. The specificity of EPO binding was assessed by homologous competition with an excess of unlabeled EPO and by using two monoclonal antibodies against human EPO, one inhibitory and the other noninhibitory for binding of EPO to EPO-R. Major EPO binding sites were observed in the hippocampus, capsula interna, cortex, and midbrain areas. Functional expression of the EPO-R and hypoxic upregulation of EPO suggest a role of EPO in the brain.