The present study was performed to investigate the patterns of gene expression of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors (NRs) in the rat neostriatum during postnatal development. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reactions (RT-PCR) indicated that levels of NR1, NR2A and NR2D mRNAs reached peak levels between postnatal days 7 (PND 7) and PND 14. The levels of NR2B and NR2C mRNAs were low at PND 1 and their levels increased at PND 7 and remained high in adults. Immunofluorescence combined with image analysis revealed that the levels of NR1 immunoreactivity rose to its maximum at PND 14. In contrast, NR1 immunoreactivity rose progressively in perikarya of striatal neurons. Levels of NR2A immunoreactivity in the neostriatum were highest in adults. However, levels of NR2A immunoreactivity were higher in striatal neurons at PND 1 and PND 7. Levels of NR2B immunoreactivity were highest at PND 7. In the perikarya of striatal neurons however, the highest levels of NR2B immunoreactivity were detected at PND 14 and adult striatal neurons. In addition, double immunofluorescence revealed that the levels of NR1 immunoreactivity increased but the levels of NR2A immunoreactivity were the same in parvalbumin (PV)-positive striatal interneurons of PND 14 and adult rats. NR2B immunoreactivity was not detected in PV-positive neurons of PND 14 rats, but intense NR2B labeling was seen in PV-positive neurons of adult rats. Last but not least, in choline acetyltransferase (ChAT)-positive striatal interneurons of PND 14 and adult rats, levels of NR1 and NR2A immunoreactivity was seen to increase. Level of NR2B immunoreactivity remained the same in ChAT-positive neurons of PND 14 and adult rats. The present results indicate that there are differential patterns of expression of NR mRNAs and immunoreactivity in the neostriatum during different stages of postnatal development. Different combinations of NR have been found in different subpopulations of striatal neurons at different developmental stages. NR1, NR2A and NR2B are the major NMDA receptor subunits expressed during development. The change in patterns of expression of NR may be related to the functional maturation of neurons in the neostriatum. Copyright © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.