The localization of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) in the gerbil auditory brainstem was studied during normal postnatal development. The principal objective of this paper was to compare the developmental distribution of BDNF and NT-3 proteins to the known developmental distribution of their cognate, high-affinity tyrosine kinase receptors. BDNF and NT-3 proteins were localized using standard immunohistochemistry. No specific immunoreactivity for BDNF or NT-3 was detected on the day of birth (P0) in any auditory structure, although fibers comprising the spinal tract of the Vth cranial nerve were well labelled with antibodies against BDNF. Diffuse immunoreactivity for both BDNF and NT-3 was first detected at P3 in the cochlear nucleus and in several second order auditory nuclei in the superior olivary complex. This diffuse immunoreactivity became clustered and restricted to neuronal cell bodies by P10. Immunoreactivity for both BDNF and NT-3 transiently disappeared in the lateral and medial superior olivary nuclei at P10. However, neurons in the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body remained immunopositive for both BDNF and NT-3. Fibers in the trapezoid body were labelled with BDNF immunoreactivity by P12. Between P12 and P15, the distribution of BDNF and NT-3 immunoreactivity in the cochlear nucleus and superior olivary complex became comparable to adult (P140) immunolabel. These results show that the normal developmental distribution of the neurotrophins BDNF and NT-3 in the lower auditory brainstem occurs during the first two postnatal weeks in parallel with the developmental expression of their cognate receptors, trkB and trkC.