The development of immunoreactivity for the putative inhibitory amino acid neurotransmitter glycine was investigated in the embryonic and posthatched chick lumbosacral spinal cord by using postembedding immunocytochemical methods. Glycine immunoreactive perikarya were first observed at embryonic day 8 (E8) both in the dorsal and ventral gray matters. The number of immunostained neurons sharply increased by ElO and was gradually augmented further at later developmental stages. The general pattern of glycine immunoreactivity characteristic of mature animals had been achieved by E12 and was only slightly altered afterward. Most of the immunostained neurons ware located in the presumptive deep dorsal horn (laminae IV-VI) and lamina VII, although glycine-imrnunoreactive neurons were scattered throughout the entire extent of the spinal gray matter. By using some of our previously obtained and published data concerning the development of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic neurons in the embryonic chick lumbosacral spinal cord, we have compared the numbers, sizes, and distribution of glycine- and GABA-immunoreactive spinal neurons at various develomental stages and found the following marked differences in the developmental characteristics of these two populations of putative inhibitory interneurons. (i) GABA immunoreactivity was expressed very early (E4), whereas immunoreactivity for glycine appeared relatively late (ES) in embryonic development. (ii) In the ventral horn, GABA immunoreactivity declined, whereas immunoreactivity for glycine gradually increased from ES onward in such a manner that the sum of glycinergic and GABAergic perikarya remained constant during the second half of embryonic development. (iii) Glycinergic and GABAergic neurons showed different distribution patterns in the spinal gray matter throughout the entire course of embryogenesis as well as in the posthatched animal. When investigating the colocalization of glycine and GABA immunoreactivities, perikarya immunostained for both amino acids were revealed at all developmental stages from E8 onward, and the proportions of glycine- and GABA-immunoreactive neurons that were also immunostained for the other amino acid were remarkably constant during development. The characteristic features of the development of the investigated putative inhibitory spinal interneuroris are discussed and correlated with previous neuroanatomical and physiological studies. © 1995 Wiley-Liss Inc.