Background. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the main vectors of dengue viruses to humans. Understanding their biology and interactions with the pathogen are prerequisites for development of dengue transmission control strategies. Mosquito salivary glands are organs involved directly in pathogen transmission to vertebrate hosts. Information on the spatial distribution of gene expression in these organs is expected to assist in the development of novel disease control strategies, including those that entail the release of transgenic mosquitoes with impaired vector competence. Results. We report here the hybridization in situ patterns of 30 transcripts expressed in the salivary glands of adult Ae. aegypti females. Distinct spatial accumulation patterns were identified. The products of twelve genes are localized exclusively in the proximal-lateral lobes. Among these, three accumulate preferentially in the most anterior portion of the proximal-lateral lobe. This pattern revealed a salivary gland cell type previously undescribed in Ae. aegypti, which was validated by transmission electron microscopy. Five distinct gene products accumulate in the distal-lateral lobes and another five localize in the medial lobe. Seven transcripts are found in the distal-lateral and medial lobes. The transcriptional product of one gene accumulates in proximal- and distal-lateral lobes. Seven genes analyzed by quantitative PCR are expressed constitutively. The most abundant salivary gland transcripts are those localized within the proximal-lateral lobes, while previous work has shown that the distal-lateral lobes are the most active in protein synthesis. This incongruity suggests a role for translational regulation in mosquito saliva production. Conclusions. Transgenic mosquitoes with reduced vector competence have been proposed as tools for the control of dengue virus transmission. Expression of anti-dengue effector molecules in the distal-lateral lobes of Ae. aegypti salivary glands has been shown to reduce prevalence and mean intensities of viral infection. We anticipate greater efficiency of viral suppression if effector genes are expressed in all lobes of the salivary glands. Based on our data, a minimum of two promoters is necessary to drive the expression of one or more anti-dengue genes in all cells of the female salivary glands. © 2011 Juhn et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.