Five N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunits have been identified thus far: NR1, NR2A, NR2B, NR2C, and NR2D. Here, we have analyzed the expression patterns of mRNAs for the NMDA receptor subunits in the developing and adult rats by in situ hybridization. The developmental changes of the expression patterns were most salient in the cerebellum. In the external granular layer, hybridization signals of mRNAs for NR1, NR2A, NR2B, and NR2C appeared by postnatal day 3, but no NR2D mRNA was expressed at any developmental stage examined. The NR1 mRNA was expressed in all cerebellar neurons at all developmental stage examined. The NR1 mRNA was expressed in all cerebellar neurons at all developmental stages examined. The signals for the NR2A mRNA appeared in Purkinje cells and granule cells during the second postnatal week. The signals for the NR2B mRNA in granule cells were seen transiently during the first 2 weeks after birth. The signals for NR2C mRNA appeared in granule cells and glial cells during the second postnatal week. The signals for NR2D mRNA appeared transiently in Purkinje cells during the first 8 postnatal days; in adult rats, these were seen in stellate and Golgi cells. In the cerebellar nuclei, mRNAs for NR1, NR2A, NR2B, and NR2D were more or less expressed on postnatal day 0, while expression signals for the NR2C mRNA were first detected in postnatal day 14. Thus, the most conspicuous changes of expression patterns were observed in the cerebellar cortex during the first 2 weeks after birth, when development and maturation of the cerebellum proceed most rapidly.