Postnatal expression of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans was studied in the rat thalamus by immunocytochemistry and Western immunoblotting techniques with monoclonal antibodies that recognize carbohydrate epitopes (clones CS-56, 1-B-5, 2-B-6). The complex of the results shows that these antibodies recognize mostly nonoverlapping molecules whose expression is regulated during postnatal development. Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans, recognized by antibody CS-56, and hyaluronan, identified by antibody 1-B-5 after hyaluronidase digestion, are abundant in the neuropil of most thalamic nuclei at the perinatal stage and progressively decrease during the second week of life, attaining levels barely detectable by immunocytochemistry at the end of the third week. In adult thalamus, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans of high molecular mass, bearing glycosaminoglycans unsulfated in the linking region, and recognized by antibody 1-B-5 are confined to perineuronal nets around neurons chiefly localized in thalamic reticular nucleus. The immunoreactvity for antibody 2-B-6, specific for chondroitin-4-sulfate, is low at the perinatal stage and is not detectable in adult thalamus. Double-immunolabeling has shown that, along the rostrocaudal extension of reticular nucleus, the most developed perineuronal nets are associated with a subset of neurons expressing calretinin, and not with parvalbumin-positive neurons, which represent the largest neuronal population of the nucleus. The distribution of perineuronal nets supports the presence, in thalamic reticular nucleus, of neuronal subpopulations with different morphological and physiological features.