We have shown previously that connexin43 in the adult rat central nervous system (CNS) is predominantly localized at astrocytic gap junctions. Here we document immunohistochemically the emergence of connexin43-immunoreactive (connexin43-IR) structures and the regional patterns of connexin43 expression during postnatal maturation of the rat brain. On Western blots, connexin43 was detected in brain samples at postnatal day (P) 5, the earliest age studied. Immunohistochemically, most brain regions displayed a characteristic sequence of transient immunoreactive profiles that ultimately gave rise to the uneven distribution of the protein seen in adults. Generally, brains at P1-P5 exhibited long, fibrous connexin43-IR elements which were identified as radial glial cells. This fibrous immunostaining was considerably diminished at P5 and was replaced by short immunoreactive processes which predominated up to P10. These processes had a stellate appearance, emanated from partially stained astrocytic cell bodies and were heterogeneously distributed throughout the developing brain. By P15, there occurred only punctate immunolabelling similar to that seen in adult brain. Some brain regions including the amygdaloid complex, septohypothalamic nucleus, preoptic hypothalamus, zona incerta, ependyma and subfornical organ were exceptional in that they displayed adult immunostaining patterns at early postnatal ages suggesting a precocious maturation of gap junctions in these areas. We conclude that the highly heterogeneous distribution of connexin43-immunoreactivity among defined nuclear structures in adult brain does not reflect an antecedent requirement for connexin43 in early brain morphogenesis, but rather is related to the development of neuronal activity, the establishment of functional circuitry and the contribution of astrocytic gap junctions to glial metabolic coupling and potassium spatial buffering in the mature CNS.