The development and maintenance of the adult expression and distribution of Kv 1.1 and Kv 1.2, two voltage-dependent potassium channel subunits, were investigated in the anteroventral cochlear nucleus (AVCN) of the rat. Both Kv 1.1 and Kv 1.2 were found in AVCN neuronal cell bodies at birth, as detected by in situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry. However, Kv 1.1 and Kv 1.2 were not seen in axons until the end of the third postnatal week. From postnatal day 21 through adulthood, labeling for both potassium channels was in axonal processes, whereas the number of cell bodies labeled for Kv 1.1 decreased and there were no cell bodies labeled for Kv 1.2. Therefore, these two potassium channel proteins are targeted to their final subcellular destinations in axons well after hearing onset. Once the adult distribution pattern of Kv 1.1 and Kv 1.2 is attained, its maintenance does not depend on signals from auditory nerve synapses. Eliminating auditory nerve input to the cochlear nucleus by means of bilateral cochleotomy did not change Kv 1.1 or Kv 1.2 expression or distribution, as seen by in situ hybridization, immunocytochemistry and Western blot. Thus, normal excitatory synaptic input in adult animals is not a requirement to regulate the expression and cellular and subcellular distribution of these potassium channel proteins.