The beta-adrenergic receptor kinase (beta ARK) phosphorylates the agonist-occupied beta-adrenergic receptor to promote rapid receptor uncoupling from Gs, thereby attenuating adenylyl cyclase activity. Beta ARK-mediated receptor desensitization may reflect a general molecular mechanism operative on many G-protein-coupled receptor systems and, particularly, synaptic neurotransmitter receptors. Two distinct cDNAs encoding beta ARK isozymes were isolated from rat brain and sequenced. The regional and cellular distributions of these two gene products, termed beta ARK1 and beta ARK2, were determined in brain by in situ hybridization and by immunohistochemistry at the light and electron microscopic levels. The beta ARK isozymes were found to be expressed primarily in neurons distributed throughout the CNS. Ultrastructurally, beta ARK1 and beta ARK2 immunoreactivities were present both in association with postsynaptic densities and, presynaptically, with axon terminals. The beta ARK isozymes have a regional and subcellular distribution consistent with a general role in the desensitization of synaptic receptors.