Neurons in the rat cerebral cortex are enriched in group I metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) subtypes and respond to their activation during development. To understand better the mechanisms by which mGluR1 and mGluR5 mediate these effects, the goal of this study was to elucidate the expression pattern and to determine the cellular and the precise subcellular localization of these two receptor subtypes in the rat neocortex and hippocampus during late prenatal and postnatal development. At the light microscopic level, mGluR1alpha and mGluR5 were first detected in the cerebral cortex with different expression levels at embryonic day E18. Thus, mGluR5 had a moderate expression, whereas mGluR1alpha was detected as a diffuse and weak labeling. mGluR5 was localized in some Cajal- Retzius cells as well as in other cell types, such as pioneer neurons of the marginal zone. During postnatal development, the distribution of the receptors dramatically changed. From P0 to around P10, mGluR1alpha was localized in identified, transient Cajal-Retzius cells of neocortex and hippocampus, until these cells disappear. In addition, a population of interneurons localized the receptor from the second/third postnatal week. In contrast, mGluR5 was localized mainly in pyramidal cells and in some interneurons, with a neuropilar staining throughout the cerebral cortex. At the electron microscopic level, the immunoreactivity for both group I mGluR subtypes was expressed postsynaptically. Using immunogold methods, mGluR1alpha and mGluR5 immunoreactivities were found throughout postnatal development at the edge of postsynaptic specialization of asymmetrical synapses. These results show that the two group I mGluRs have a differential expression pattern in neocortex and hippocampus that may suggest roles for the receptors in the early processing of cortical information and in the control of cortical developmental events.