Aceruloplasminemia is an autosomal recessive disorder of iron metabolism characterized by progressive neurodegeneration of the retina and basal ganglia in association with inherited mutations of the ceruloplasmin gene. To begin to elucidate the pathogenesis of this disease, ceruloplasmin gene expression was examined in human brain and retinal tissue. RNA blot analysis and RNAse protection studies demonstrate ceruloplasmin-specific transcripts in multiple regions of the human brain, and biosynthetic studies reveal ceruloplasmin synthesis and secretion in these same regions. Consistent with these observations, in situ hybridization of central nervous system tissue utilizing ceruloplasmin cRNA probes reveals abundant ceruloplasmin gene expression in specific populations of glial cells associated with the brain microvasculature, surrounding dopaminergic melanized neurons in the substantia nigra and within the inner nuclear layer of the retina. Taken in the context of the clinical and pathological features observed in patients with aceruloplasminemia, these data reveal that glial cell-specific ceruloplasmin gene expression is essential for iron homeostasis and neuronal survival in the human central nervous system.