Glutamate receptors mediate most excitatory synaptic transmission in the adult vertebrate brain, but their activation in developing neurons also influences developmental processes. However, little is known about the developmental regulation of the subunits composing these receptors. Here we have studied age-dependent changes in the expression of α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole (AMPA) and N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunits in the cochlear nucleus complex (CN), the superior olivary complex (SOC), the nuclei of the lateral lemniscus, and the inferior colliculus of the developing rat. In the lateral superior olive, the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body, and the ventral nucleus of the lateral lemniscus, the distribution of AMPA receptor subunits changed drastically with age. While GluR1 and GluR2 subunits were highly expressed in the first 2 postnatal weeks, GluR4 staining was detectable only thereafter. GluR1 and GluR2 immunoreactivities rapidly decreased during the third postnatal week, with the GluR1 subunits disappearing from most neurons. In contrast, the adult pattern of the distribution of AMPA receptor subunits emerged gradually in most of the other auditory nuclei. Thus, progressive as well as regressive events characterized AMPA receptor development in some nuclei, while a monotonically maturation was seen in other regions. In contrast, the staining patterns of NMDA receptor subunits remained stable or only decreased during the same period. Although our data are not consistent with a generalized pattern of AMPA receptor development, the abundance of GluR1 subunits is a distinctive feature of early AMPA receptors. As similar AMPA receptors are present during plasticity periods throughout the brain, neurons undergoing synaptic and structural remodelling might have a particular need for these receptors.