The mammalian visual cortex contains morphologically diverse populations of interneurons whose neurochemical properties are believed to be regulated by neurotrophic factors. This requires the expression of neurotrophin receptors. We have analysed whether brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), its receptor trkB and the NT-3 receptor trkC are expressed in interneurons of rat visual cortex in vivo, and in organotypic visual cortex cultures, paying particular attention to the subsets of neuropeptidergic neurons. In situ hybridization in combination with immunofluorescence for calcium-binding proteins and neuropeptides revealed that BDNF is not expressed in interneurons in vivo or in vitro. For the neurotrophin receptors we found in vivo at postnatal day 70 (P70) that ≈ 80% of the parvalbumin-immunoreactive (-ir), but only 50% of the intensely calbindin-ir, and only 20% of the calretinin-ir neurons express trkB. Double labelling with neuropeptides revealed that ≈ 50% of the neuropeptide Y-ir and ≈ 50% of the somatostatin-ir neurons express trkB in a laminar-specific way. Only 25% of the vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP)-ir neurons coexpress trkB. The coexpression of neuropeptide Y with trkB, but not with BDNF or trkC, was confirmed with a double in situ hybridization. In contrast, the percentages differed in the immature cortex; at P14 70% of the NPY-ir neurons and 46% of the calretinin-ir neurons revealed trkB expression, while the ratio for calbindin-ir cells was fairly constant (59%). From the interneuron populations studied, only 12% of the parvalbumin-ir neurons expressed trkC. A triple labelling revealed that some neurons coexpressed both trk mRNAs, while others had only trkC. The analysis of interneurons in organotypic cultures yielded very similar results. The results indicate that trkB ligands synthesized by pyramidal neurons influence neuropeptide or calcium-binding protein expression in a paracrine or transsynaptic manner. However, in contrast to current belief, in the adult only about half of all interneurons appear responsive to trkB ligands. Although the proportion is higher in the immature cortex, not all of the interneurons appear neurotrophin-receptive. With regard to the presence or absence of neurotrophin receptors, the molecular heterogeneity of GABAergic interneurons in the visual cortex is higher than currently assumed, and the responsiveness to neurotrophins changes with development in a cell type-specific way.