Ionotropic GABA(C) receptors are composed of rho1, rho2 and rho3 subunits. Although the distribution of rho subunit mRNAs in the adult brain has been studied, information on the developmental regulation of different rho subunits in the brain is scattered and incomplete. Here, GABA(C) receptor rho subunit expression was studied in the developing rat brain. In situ hybridization on postnatal brain slices showed rho2 mRNA expression from newborn in superficial gray layer (SGL) of superior colliculus (SuC), and from the first postnatal week in the hippocampal CA1 region and pretectal nucleus of the optic tract. rho2 mRNA was also expressed in the adult dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus. Quantitative RT-PCR revealed expression of all three rho subunits in the hippocampus and superior colliculus from the first postnatal day. In the hippocampus, rho2 mRNA expression clearly dominated over rho1 and rho3, whereas in the superior colliculus, rho1 mRNA expression levels were similar to rho2. In both areas, a clear up-modulation of rho2 and rho3 mRNA during the first postnatal week was detected. GABA(C) receptor protein expression was confirmed in adult hippocampus, superior colliculus and dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus by immunohistochemistry. Our results demonstrate for the first time the expression of all three rho subunit mRNAs in several regions of the developing and adult rat brain. Our quantitative data allows assessment of putative subunit combinations in the superior colliculus and hippocampus. From the selective distribution of rho subunits, it may be hypothesized that GABA(C) receptors are specifically involved in aspects of visual image motion processing in the rat brain.