Functional maturation of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor is executed by its gamma-to-epsilon subunit switching. The glycine receptor also has fetal (alpha 2) and adult (alpha 1) isoforms. However, whether subunit switching is responsible for developmental changes in glycine receptor function is not known. We recorded single-channel currents from homomeric glycine receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes with cRNAs encoding the alpha 2 or alpha 1 subunits and compared them with those recorded from native glycine receptors in rat spinal neurons at various ontogenic periods. The mean channel life times of the alpha 1 and mature glycine receptors were equally short, whereas both the alpha 2 and fetal receptors showed a significantly longer open time. Consistent with these results, the decay time of the glycinergic inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) in spinal neurons became shorter during postnatal development. We conclude that developmental switching of alpha subunits may accelerate the kinetics of IPSCs.