In order to characterize the expression of ionotropic glutamate receptor immunoreactivity in subpopulations of neurons in the rat substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr), double labeling experiments were performed. Neurons in the reticulata were found to display GluR1, GluR2, GluR2/3, GluR4, N-methyl- D-aspartate receptor 1 (NMDAR1) and NMDAR2B immunoreactivity. Some of the reticulata neurons were shown to display GluR1 and GluR2 immunoreactivity or GluR2 and GluR4 immunoreactivity at the single cell level. In addition, subpopulations of reticulata neurons were characterized on the basis of the strong expression of parvalbumin (PV) and GABA transaminase immunoreactivity. All of the reticulata neurons that displayed strong immunoreactivity for PV or GABA transaminase also displayed immunoreactivity for GluR1, GluR2/3, GluR4, NMDAR1 and NMDAR2B. A tiny portion (around 15%) of reticulata neurons that display NMDAR1 immunoreactivity was found to be PV- or GABA- transaminase-negative. The present results indicate that native α-amino-3- hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate (AMPA)-type receptors and NMDA-type receptors in the rat substantia nigra are composed of heteromeric receptor subunits. The present findings further demonstrate that most of the AMPA-type and NMDA-type glutamate receptor subunits are primarily expressed by subpopulations of neurons in the rat SNr. Copyright © 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.