The ionotropic glutamate receptors play key roles in multiple developmental mechanisms, including regulation of neuronal migration and differentiation, and synaptic organization. In this study, we investigated the developmental expression of these glutamate receptors in the postnatal rat hippocampus. We examined the transcripts encoding the subunits composing the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate (AMPA), and kainate (KA) subtypes of glutamate receptors by in situ hybridization at multiple time points from postnatal day (PND) 1 to PND 35. In the case of the AMPA receptor, gluR1 expression did not change over this time period, while gluR2, gluR3, and gluR4 did. These three subunits each underwent a transient period of increased expression at either PND 7 or PND 18. All five of the kainate receptor subunits changed during this time, all starting at relatively high levels of expression that declined by PND 35. Similar to most of the AMPA subunits, all of the kainate subunits had transient periods of significantly increased expression. The NMDA receptors all changed during over time as well, and each had a period of increased expression. The periods of transiently increased expression of all of these subunits coincide with known periods of plasticity and other critical times in development. These results suggest the different glutamate receptor subtypes may be critical at specific times during postnatal brain development. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.